Archive for World Business Forum 2010


The Importance of Understanding the Backstory – Wicked Important!

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After the World Business Forum 2010 I took advantage of being in New York City and went to see Wicked on Broadway.  All I can say is that the current cast is Amazing!  While I am enjoying the CD from the original cast, the voices of the current leads are even better.  My metaphorical hat and standing ovation to Mandy Gonzalez (Elphaba) and Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda).  Both their individual voices as well as the blend was superb.  Andy Karl’s (Fiyero) dancing and singing brought a smile to my face.

As I watched the story unfold I was amazed at the number of important messages embedded within the story itself.  It almost felt like a life lesson while watching the wonderful cast dance, sing, and entertain.  I’ve commited to my children to take them to see it soon.  I feel that not only would they enjoy the story but that there are life lessons they can observe.  It also gives us a platform for discussing situations and behaviors.

A few of the elements of the story include:

  • Being true to yourself and your beliefs
  • How people are measured and valued
  • Caring for, helping, and supporting others in need
  • Social pressures
  • Giving everyone a chance – recognizing them for who they are inside and not just outside
  • How the labels given to history and the “spin” change how we view things
  • The “spin” the Press does and the true power of that spin – to completely mislead and misrepresent
  • The value of working together – In one song Glinda and Elphaba sing about “…together we are unlimited…”

During the show I kept thinking over and over about the importance of understanding the “backstory.”  The true history of a situation.  Not what was fabricated by the press and those in power.

If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you know that the Wicked Witch of the West is the “bad guy.”   You know this, absolutely know this for sure.

However, once you understand the backstory, the true history, you learn:

  • Elphaba, The Wicked, had a truly generous heart.  She was extremely loving and kind.
  • The Wizard isn’t actually kind and helpful.  He is actually a “bad guy” in many ways, working the system and manipulating others.
  • Glinda (formerly known as Galinda) begins the story as very egotistical and grows through her relationship with Elphaba. 
    • Glinda faces the choices she has made and accepts responsibility for them – changing herself in the process.
  • Glinda and Elphaba initally loath each other. 
    • They evolve into best friends by looking inside, understanding, and valuing each other as individuals.
  • Elphaba was painted as Wicked by the Wizard and the Press Secretary for trying to help others and standing up to injustice.
  • While Elphaba was persecued for being Being Lionhearted © she never gave up on doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  She accepts the “label” of The Wicked in the name of doing good.

So what does this tell us?

  • You need to look at the history, the drivers and motivations, not just the current situation.
  • You should challenge “labels” given to people and seek to truly understand, not just accept them at face value.
  • Look for the person inside, not just the outside they show the world.  They might be quite different.
  • Understanding the backstory is critical for understanding the truth of any current situation.

The truth is out there.  May you Stop, Look, and Listen to find it.  For those interested in knowing more about Wicked the Musical, here’s the description from USA Today. 

“So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.  Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the Land of Oz.  One – born with emerald green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood.  The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.

How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete, and completely satisfying, new musical in a long time.”

Pictures from

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I see myself, do you? I'm looking at you. Are you looking back?

During Day 1 of the World Business Forum 2010, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of fellow bloggers over lunch.  While describing what it is that I do, Carol Roth, said “you’re the Elephant Whisperer.”  Wow, I thought.  That’s dead on.  

While I’m not sure I could have labled myself The Elephant Whisperer ©, Carol nailed what I was all about.  I feel that I can and now actively “own” this label.  Here’s a portion a recent article by Carol about our lunch and the power of calling out an issue.  

“There are so many times when we have a personal or professional issue and are afraid to address it.  But how can you expect to solve a problem if you don’t identify that it exists in the first place? 

Putting a name on the monster that is causing small or big issues immediately lessens its impact.   Once you name it, the willingness to address the issue allows you to move on, instead of staying stuck in limbo forever.”   

Carol is a deal maker, author, business strategist and advisor to corporations, small businesses & aspiring entrepreneurs.  She is frank, straightforward and insightful.  You have spinach in your teeth?  She’ll let you know.  She can also make you laugh which is much needed in business these days – at least I think so.  Go here to read Carol’s full article.

In my area of practice, Strategic Change, Organizational Change, and Cultural Change, the biggest barrier, I’ve found are the elephants.  The cultural norming.  The reactions as much if not more so than the actions.  All those things that are going on that no one wants to talk about.  Just because they aren’t talked about doesn’t mean they aren’t there and are not affecting your business.

Our country (Carol and I live in the US) is at a crossroads.  Actually several.  If we are to address the changes that are needed – in both business and social arenas we must talk, really talk about the issues.  Not just the symptoms, but the underlying issues and root causes.  Therein lies the elephant.  We don’t want to talk about root causes.  Doing so would force us to look to closely at ourselves. 

You might consider calling myself The Elephant Whisperer © involves a bit of an elephant itself.  If we don’t want to talk about elephants, why would I even want this moniker?  Why have I taken this term and owned it mentally and emotionally, going so far as to rename my book?  Because I see the elephants and I talk about them.  I want to inspire and provoke others to do so too.

I’ve taken the mirror to myself.  Studied who and what I am.  It’s scary at times, but well worth the end result.  My elephant?  It’s my directness and candor.  It can (and has) made people uncomfortable at times. 

I challenge you to face your personal elephant.  The one in the mirror.  Understand who you are, what you are about, and own it.  I believe doing so is a key step to being able to talk about other elephants.  Know yourself.  Your true motivations and your own elephants. 

I applaud Carol and her directness.  I could immediately tell that she knew who she was and what she wanted.  She has an abundance mentality not a scarcity mentality.  She balances sharing openly and honestly with having a solid business background and well defined goals.  This girl rocks!  I can’t wait till her book comes out next year. 

Wondering if I should coin her as the Spinach Talker?  Food for thought?  (yes, pun intended).  The Red Shoe Writer?  You’ll understand that one better when you see her book cover (book is due out Q1 2011).  Think I should ponder that a bit more, though I must confess The Red Shoe Writer is growing on me…

In the mean time, get the mirror out.  Find your own elephants and face them down. 

Cheers and good luck both facing and owning your elephants. 


Tweeting, Ethics, and a bit of Jack Welch at the World Business Forum

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Have we crossed the Ethical Crossroad?

For those of you who have followed me for a while, you know that I made the decision earlier this year to not get involved with the Twitter Craze.  For the back story on this, you can read To Tweet or Not to Tweet.

This past week I became part of the Twitter Craze as a result of my involvement in the Bloggers Hub at the World Business Forum 2010.  My original plan was to focus on writing articles with minimal tweeting.  That certainly didn’t go as planned, not at all.

After getting Tweetdeck that morning, I somehow managed to tweet 170 times.  Forty during the first speaker alone – well, it was Jim Collins…  The next day 190 tweets.  Twitter craze, I have arrived.  Eh gads, what happened?

  • I found that I was mentally engaged by the speakers.  Not just thinking about the words they said but implications.
  • I noticed that many tweeters in the Bloggers Hub focused on quoting statements. 
    • While this is quite useful, I wanted to push the conversation further.
    • I wanted those following on the Hub to be challenged – to ask themselves questions.
  • While I occasionally did include a quote, I focused on interpretations, observations, thoughts, and questions.

I was feeling a bit more hip, involved in social media in a way I wasn’t before.  Yea me.  

Then during Jack Welch’s talk, I slammed into a wall.  An ethical wall.  One I had bumped into the week before but hadn’t realized was so pervasive. 

During the interview with Jack Welch, I was startled, yes startled when the interviewer asked if he tweeted for himself.  What?  People are writing under other people’s names?  That doesn’t seem right to me.

Here’s the tweet I immediately sent out to the Hub:

  • “I struggle with even asking if someone is doing their own tweets.  Something seems fundamentally wrong if you are not.”

I am happy to report that Jack does tweet for himself.  Go Jack!

On Day 2 I noticed that one of our Hub bloggers was tweeting under another very well known person’s name.  Huh?   This bothered me.  Quite a bit.  So those tweets I thought were coming from Famous Person X aren’t written by him?  Have we crossed an ethical gray area and why do I seem to be the only one concerned?   

There are a number of things to ponder: 

  • Are we misrepresenting information when a tweet is posted under Person A’s name but was written by Person B?
  • How much more influenced are you by an idea when “written” by Famous Person X.  What does that tell us?  
    • Are we more willing to buy into an idea because of who said it than because of content of the idea?
    • How many other times and in what other ways does this happen?  
  • Why does an individual feel the need to have someone else tweet and blog under their name?  
    • What are the motivators and factors involved?
    • What are the risks?
  • If we believe that someone is really putting out a significant volume of work by themselves when they really are not, what kinds of incorrect comparisons are we making relative to what they can and do accomplish vs. what we do?  
    • Might we view ourselves negatively compared to an unrealistic benchmark?

Am I just too naive or idealistic to think this shouldn’t be done?  I can understand “brand management”, but at what point does it cross a line? 

I personally vote for substance over volume, for not choosing the “popular” name for name’s sake.  Yes, there are ghostwriters for books, but in the end, the creative elements and creative content is provided by the author.  They participate every step of the way.  Can you really claim that content comes from the author named when the post is 140 characters long and the “author” never read it?

It is one thing to blog and tweet as part of a company, as a representative of a company.  It’s another to tweet and blog as another person.  Yes, it might be “on their behalf” but isn’t it really a mis-representation of the truth?  I think so (and so does my spouse who was kind enough to be my reviewer for this blog).

My personal conclusion remains a blend of To Tweet or Not to Tweet and my recent experience I will:

  • Tweet for myself. 
  • Minimize the amount of tweeting and retweeting I do. 
    • It must have value, not just be noise or be about “look at me, look at me.”
    • Choose time with my family over being constantly on-line and available.
  • Continue to question the ethics surrounding the use and mis-uses of social media.
  • Continue to elevate this issue.  To question the precedent that is currently being set.
  • Be clear if someone else is tweeting on behalf of my brand – it will be clear that it is not me, rather the brand. 
  • Politely say no and explain that why I am uncomfortable if someone asks me to tweet under their name.

It’s not just about this step that concerns me, it’s about the next step and the one after.  What line might we cross in the future if we so willingly and easily cross this one?  How does this impact copyrighting, creative use, and other legal situations? 

It seems like something we should be concerned about.  Something to pay attention to and challenge.  Ethics are important, really important.  We think the truth is out there, but is it really what we think, or has it been mis-represented? 

Is this another Elephant in the room?  I think that this might just be the On-line Ethics Elephant.  I think it should be talked about.  Do you?

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Are you taking steps to build Greatness?

The opening speaker at the World Business Forum 2010  was Jim Collins.  What an opening! 

The following article written by my colleague Maureen Metcalf of Metcalf & Associates.  While I tweeted away during the event, she focused on writing blog articles.  Rather than reinvent the wheel so to speak, I will be posting the series of articles that she wrote.  Here’s the first of Maureen’s articles.

“Mr. Collins spoke about the syntheses of Good to Great, Built to Last, and how the Mighty Fall.  Sustaining Great Results What does a Level 5 Leaders do?

1.  Combat Hubris through ruthless self examination.  Level 5 Leaders are committed to the truth over the image they have of themselves and their companies.  They understand that only through rigor and discipline in thinking and action will the success continue long term.  They have the courage to ask the tough questions about their companies and themselves that enable them to face changing times.

2.   Combat the desire for too much too quickly. Level 5 Leaders understand the “right pace” for long term sustainable growth.  If a leader is building an organization that will last for 25 years and even 100 years, what does he/she need to do today to move forward 1 step today?  Great leaders build the team who can execute on goals and values impeccably then expand.  They regroup and recharge and plan before each next step to ensure successful implementation.

3.   Face the Brutal Facts and Act – Level 5 Leaders are willing to face the brutal facts and take the difficult action.  With a 25 year vision, clear values and principles, they make the tough decisions that will produce long term sustainable progress because it is what needs to be done.  This can mean making major changes to projects or products they value and may have created.

4.  Commit to Discipline and Rigor – Level 5 Leaders know that there are no quick fixes or short cuts to greatness.  Daily discipline and right action from all employees creates great results.  These results are not immediately visible.  Success is a combination of quick wins and long term daily actions aligned with the organizations’ goals and principles.

5.  Commit to Creating Value – Level 5 Leaders meet a need in the community that is not being filled by others.  They are driven by passion and commitment to improve the world – not for fame. They do what they do because at their core they are doing what they are called to do.   By responding to a larger purpose, the leader is able to make the tough calls at times with high personal cost.  They are able to make the toughest of calls.

Level 5 Leaders create long term value for their companies, employees, communities and the world by taking these actions.”

Faith here again – If you are interested in building Level 5 Leaders, I highly recommend talking with Maureen as business is building Level 5 Leaders.  You can visit her web-site for more information both about Level 5 Leaders and her companies services.


Are you Being Lionhearted © or are you just one of the crowd?

The second day of the World Business Forum 2010 is complete.  The speakers today talked about economics, the environment, politics, culture, product selection, survival, and the film industry to name a few.  One theme that emerged for me was the need for courage. 

This is something that I have been pondering for a while.  The courage that it will take from many individuals, both on their own and working together to drive true, lasting, sustainable change.

Do you have the courage to:

  • Focus on the Long-term, not just the Short-term? 
  • Change the way you make decisions?
  • Make the less “popular” choices?
  • Make the choices for sustainability?
  • Speak the truth, not just what sounds good?
  • Dig into the details, not just the sound bits?
  • Be a Leader, not just a Manager or Executive?’
  • Talk about the Elephants in the room?
  • Change yourself?

Courage comes from many places and many sources.  But must come from within to be sustained.  Are you courageous?  I’m working on my Lion’s heart.  Come join me.

More to come about Being Lionhearted:  The Courage to Change © soon.  In the interim, see the WBF Bloggers Hub for comments and questions about being courageous.

Book to come – ebook or other tbd. 

In the interim, visit the Ponders & Insights over the next weeks and months for more on this topic. 

I would love to hear back from you about how you are courageous, when and where you have had the courage to change, and what you feel it takes to stand up and go against the crowd to do what you feel is right. 

Do you have stories about having the courage to change yourself and to be an example to others?  If so, I would love to hear them.


Are you putting all the pieces of what you learned together? Will you talk about what you see and the Elephants in the room?

The first day of the World Business Forum 2010 is complete.  The speakers entertaining and educating. 

The questions for me are:

  • Was the audience really enlightened? 
  • Did they truly listen to the messages, not just the words?
  • Will they truly take the core messages back to their businesses? To think about what it means to truly lead, not command and control?

While World Business Forum 2010 Day 1 is gone, the content it not?  When you do as Collins suggests, stopping one day for every two weeks of booked time (come on, try it), I encourage you to ponder, think, reflect, and visit or revisit the Bloggers Hub.  You’ll learn something new, provoke your thinking, and challenge yourself.  I promise!  I do every time I go back. 

Articles related to what was learned, shared, discussed, and reflected on during the World Business Forum are forthcoming over the next weeks and months.  My thanks to all the great bloggers, guests, and speakers who challenged my thinking and helped me to continue to drive myself and my thinking forward.  Cheers all.

Elephant #1:  We don’t truly value stopping to think, to reflect, to ponder. 

We tend to value action much more than reflection.  Doing over creating.  I’d like you to stop and think about that.  I’ll talk more about the motivation, drivers, and factors that drive this in a future blog.

I’m willing to talk about the Elephants in the room.  The truth of what it takes to change a company, to change a culture, to change yourself.  To be the Elephant Whisper.  Are you willing to talk with me?

Elephant Whisperer:  Strait talk about the Elephants in the Room ©

Book – ebook or hard copy tbd.  Look for a series of blogs/articles on this topic in the interim. 

Would love to hear back from you about the elephants that you see, how people deal with them (or not), and your personal stories.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes