Archive for December, 2010

It is the last day of the year. The year of my official retirement. But let’s face it. I didn’t really retire. Well, I did at first. From early March through late August I didn’t work. What I did was run, hang out and help coach a bit during the summer. From September on my life became like work again. Perhaps real retirement is a figment of my imagination. Coaching became an intense job (for very low pay). Then I allowed myself to be lured back into consulting, which began to resemble some of the expectations and pressures of work. I helped a start-up set up the staffing. My role was to advise as in member of the advisory board. And yet once things were up and running the company stopped taking my advice. I can give advice but they don’t take it and nor are they required to do so.

It reminds me a bit of high school football back in the 1960’s. I mentioned to one of the coaches that we should attempt kicking field goals when hitting 4th down in the red zone.

“We don’t kick field goals,” he said tersely. I was trying to explain to him that I was hitting 35-40 yard tries in practice but he just gave me that flinty look.

I could give my advice but that didn’t mean that he or anyone was obliged to take it.

Them’s the rules.

Then a second consulting opportunity came my way. Once again I am being asked to give my advice. Once again there is no obligation that they take it. Several weeks I posted about being in a room with other consultants and feeling like I didn’t belong there. Between HR and the larger consulting form, I was pushed out of the room figuratively of course. But the feeling was the same. The nice thing is that I understand the rules. I don’t take it personally. But it’s also the reason why, many years back now, I learned that of you want to influence something effectively, you go it alone and keep your own council. You can use other folks in your work and have them benefit from your manipulations but they can’t really know you are doing it.

The power of intent is always there.

Someone once asked me what I needed to influence a situation. I replied by saying that at the heart of it, I needed three things.

Access to those in power

Intent or a clear understanding about what I want to accomplish

I can’t make it about me. Explanation below

If I have those three things, I have a fair country chance of being successful. The benefit to me is going through the process. As long as I am not looking for power, position and money, I am free of the holds that others can and will exert over someone in my line of work. By the way, this doesn’t mean I don’t get money or position but the key is that I can’t ask for it. So a client will get quite a lot from me once we have agreed to terms because I won’t go back in and ask for more than was originally agreed upon unless they bring it up. Not because I abhor money but because it weakens me. Now the project has to be interesting or it’s not worth it. If the project stinks or is mundane then i will use money as one of my exit points.

A colleague once asked if I would be open to running a 4 day HR off site in Switzerland. This didn’t mean walking trails and looking at mountains. It meant 4 days of being sequestered in a hotel in Basel managing a 4 day meeting.

I said that my fee would be $50,000.

I hadn’t even mentioned the first class airfare.

“FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!” she squeaked. When she had recovered she asked me what I would charge if the meeting was held in Palo Alto.

“Oh, about $5,000,” I said with a straight face.

“Why the big difference?” she asked.

“One’s 6,000 miles away and the other is 6 miles,” I answered. I might not have the exact travel miles right but I am sure you get the general idea.

“Geez, you must have HR people in Europe who would do this for their salary,” I added.

In the end, that is what they ended up doing.

Life can be a freeing experience if you just “look” around you sometimes.



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Take the NFL out of it

If you take the NFL out of what is happening to the San Francisco 49ers you might see the similarity to what goes on in Silicon Valley (or in business in general) when an exec is fired or a CEO has screwed up. Here is the original Q & A that Jeddy did with SFGate.com Wordsmithing becomes an art form.

Yes, yes, we have heard all of this before. But here is something closer to the truth. Wish he had said this. (He didn’t so the words are all mine)


Q: What have you learned in two years of running the team?

A: I have learned that I don’t know two cents about football. I am making the same mistakes that Uncle Eddie made in his first two years.

Q: As the new team president, you hired Mike Singletary as head coach yourself two years ago to this date. Have you learned it’s best to leave such football decisions to football people?

A: Absolutely. Man, did I blow it. I was just green and made a “shoot from the hip” sort of decision. It was a big mistake. Don’t blame Mike. He did his best. This was all me.

Q: The one constant in the past eight years is the York ownership. How much responsibility do you bear for the results, and how has your family’s ownership fared?

A: We have failed consistently to produce a winning team. It’s embarrassing. We own this issue. I believe we did what we felt comfortable doing instead of what was expedient. So the buck stops here. Our good intentions obviously were not enough.

Q: How do you match Eddie DeBartolo’s success when the financial rules have changed with a salary cap?

A: If you try to go cheap, you can’t compete. So even within the bounds of the salary cap other successful teams like New England, Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay, Pittsburg..well, I could go on and on. The point is that they have all produced consistent winners. We haven’t. We need to be smarter about general management, coaching and players. The rules haven’t changed.

Q: What role will you have in football operations when you hire the GM?

A: Pay the bills and work on the facial hair to compensate for the fact that I am balding.

Q: How do you react to heavy criticism from the fan base?

A: I don’t blame them one bit and unlike them, I can’t just leave the owners box or turn off the TV. I have to watch it. Things are going to change. We are going do whatever it takes to be a winning franchise. Hopefully contend for the Super Bowl. I recognize that we’re just not there yet.

Q: What do you tell fans frustrated by the past eight years?

A: Things are going to change. I can say all the words I want but it’s action that the fans want.

Q: How close is this team to turning it around?

A: It’s closer than we may think. A good GM, an effective coach and some key players and I believe we’ll compete for a spot in the playoffs. I wish I knew when we could be a super bowl caliber team. We’re not there yet but that’s the direction we have to go towards.

John and Denise York

Still the power behind the throne?


Where have you gone Eddie D?



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Superb article on leadership by Michael Lombardi. I also cut and pasted it down below in case the link ever goes south.

The point being that hubris, the very thing that gives a leader confidence, if overcooked, can also bring them down.

Singletary needed help with that part of the coaching game he did not understand but instead he chose to surround himself with people who would not go up against him. The coaches and players who couldn’t stand it, left. The others focused the best they could on their jobs (like most of us) and persevered. But a leader who can’t teach is a dangerous thing.

Very different from A Dangerous Man, that person who can think out of the box and accomplish the unimaginable.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

T.E. Lawrence

The fans are ready to move on and they have hope that his departure will usher in a new era.  But this isn’t new. In corporate America this sort of change hap[pens all the time. It is the one of the rules of war in Silicon Valley. The company hires a new exec amid great expectations and then a year or two later the company fires the same person. I have been fired, I have done the firing and I have fired employees because their manager didn’t have the guts. If Jed York had asked me to fire Sing, I could have driven down to Santa Clara and done it in a heartbeat.

“Who the hell are you?” he would ask.

“I am the messenger,” I would respond. “It is time for the two of us to part ways (and we just met). You are being let go. We’ll honor your contract but your job is to clean out your office and go.  My job is to deliver the message. We’ll get you some boxes to put your stuff into.”

Cruel. Pitiless. Like a 5-10 win-loss record. Sort of empty feeling.

I would have pulled the trigger at 0-5 or 1-6.

I have pulled the trigger and had it pulled on me.


Singletary failed to replicate success as a player on sidelines

  • By Michael Lombardi NFL Network
  • NFL Network Insider
  • Published: Dec. 27, 2010 at 05:35 p.m.
  • Updated: Dec. 27, 2010 at 07:36 p.m.
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The Mike Singletary era is over in San Francisco and it was not pretty to watch from the start to the painful finish Sunday in St Louis. The 49ers have finally decided to move on and now the burden falls upon their front office to hire the right coach and leader to help them restore the glory to this once-great franchise. And Bill Walsh is no longer — oh, how I wish he were — around to assist them.

First, let me say this criticism of Singletary is strictly professional, not personal. He is a good man, dedicated to the cause and wants to achieve, but he was never equipped to be a head coach. Just because someone played in the league and achieved Hall of Fame status does not make it automatic that he will be a good coach. In fact, accomplishments as a player are not enough to make a good coach, the player has to prepare and commit the hours necessary to learning what it takes to achieve success in a coaching role.

Even for retired stars, football is a hard game to learn and completely understand. And learning to coach is also figuring out how to lead, which does not come easy for most people, regardless of whether they ever played the game professionally or not. Leaders are made, not born. Therefore, when a player retires, he has to discover how to become adept at leading men along with learning the entire game.

Paul Abell / Associated Press
Mike Singletary is the latest coach to fail to get the 49ers headed in the right direction. Steve Mariucci is the last coach to take San Francisco to the playoffs.
Singletary’s mark in San Francisco
Coach Tenure Record Playoff trips
Mike Singletary 2008-10 18-22 0
Mike Nolan 2005-08 18-37 0
Dennis Erickson 2003-04 9-23 0
Steve Mariucci 1997-2002 57-39 4

The science of football is difficult for many former players, in part, because they only play one way — either offense or defense, but never both. In baseball or basketball, players play both sides and have a chance to learn the entire game. In football, however, even a Hall of Fame linebacker will never understand the new-age passing game or the teaching method for wide receivers or, most importantly, how to relate to a quarterback.

Watching Singletary and starting quarterback Troy Smith have their sideline confrontation confirmed that Singletary views everything that happens on the field like a linebacker and, in spite of all the hoopla of him being a leader because of the way he played the game, in reality, he does not have any ability to lead.

To be an effective leader, there are four areas that must be handled, and Singletary failed in every one. Leading is not yelling, leading is not screaming and, most of all, leading is not treating everyone the same.

Now, this column is not about how to become a leader, but the science of leadership can be broken down into four areas and each impacts the other.

» The first is called management of attention, which means the leader has a comprehensive plan for achieving success. Not just a plan for the offense or defense, but a plan for the entire team.

» The second area is called management of meaning, which means the leader can explain his plan in detail and be able to motivate people to follow his plan.

» The third area is called management of trust, which means the leader will be trusted to do the right thing all the time and always place what is essential first.

» The fourth area is called management of self, which means the leader will be critical of himself when he makes a mistake.

Understanding and practicing these four areas of leadership does not guarantee success, because along with being a well-schooled leader, the leader must have the intellectual capacity to handle the job. When I was out of football, I was commissioned (never paid) by an NFL team to determine what characteristics made a successful coach. My conclusion was all related to the four areas of leadership and how successful coaches were proficient in at least three of the four. Meanwhile, coaches who failed only could achieve success in just two areas.

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Examine Singletary before he was hired as a head coach and most knew he was never going to be the scientist when it came to the game, but many thought, with his leadership skills displayed as a player, he could motivate the team and, if surrounded by the right support staff, he could win. Yet, as we have all come to learn, Singletary was not only ill-equipped to be a scientist, he was not the natural leader everyone thought.

He did not have a comprehensive plan, unless changing quarterbacks is a plan. Also, he was not good at explaining his plan or communicating — failing to give consistent analysis of why he was making the move. He failed to accept blame for his poor understanding of the details of the game and, the more the players were around him, their trust level diminished. Singletary was doomed to fail before he coached his first game, but, because he was a Hall of Fame player, he was given the job.

Now, not all former players are doomed to fail. Like any business, there are people who prepare for their jobs, work hard for their promotions and achieve success. If former players want to get involved in coaching, being an ex-player is not going to guarantee success, but what will is hard work, dedication and the willingness to learn and keep learning.

For example, when working for the Raiders, we hired former Pro Bowl quarterback Jim Harbaugh to be a film breakdown coach and to work with our quarterbacks. Harbaugh, the son of a coach, understood paying his dues, hard work and what it would take to be a great leader and coach. Harbaugh was so dedicated to the cause that one night, after working for several days without sleep, his head crashed into the computer keypad with his nose landing on the M key. Waking up a few hours later, Harbaugh found 8,000 pages of Ms and the energy to keep learning. Now, after paying his dues, Harbaugh has become a successful coach at Stanford and is NFL ready if he chooses to return to the league.

The 8,000 pages of Ms is not the path Singletary took as he felt his playing days would be enough to carry him as a head coach. But the players today only respect knowledge, not your playing résumé. They only respect the coach who knows the game — inside and out — and could care less about age or career stats.

Singletary was never going to be successful, because preparation and knowledge of the full game is critical. The game Singletary knew might have allowed him to be a success then, but not now in the new game.

Top Bear
Jay Cutler established an impressive statistical benchmark that not a single QB in Chicago franchise history had reached. Find out what it was in our Milestone Tracker

» More: NFL.com blogs

Three-step drops

» The Bears, on a sloppy field, are actually a bigger problem to handle offensively than defensively. Chicago’s offense is actually now the strength of the team and Jay Cutler has proven to be the right player for the right system. The offense is the Bears’ strength, the defense is their liability.

» The Giants better change their secondary this offseason and find more speed and athletic talent. They can beat bad offensive teams with their front, but they will continually struggle to handle speed if they don’t change their style in the draft.

» The Packers are the team no one wants to play if they make the postseason, especially with Aaron Rodgers under center. Rodgers is amazing and he along with a defense that makes the opponent fight for every yard is a great combination come playoff time.

» Congratulations to the Chiefs for winning the AFC West. They made all the right moves this offseason, starting with two new coordinators (Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel) and then having an outstanding draft. General manager Scott Pioli has proven that the Patriot way can work outside of New England.

» Matt Cassel has also proven Pioli right in his decision to trade for the quarterback and bring him in to lead the team. Cassel is a great leader. He is improving each year and, right now, he has the confidence of his teammates.

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» Tim Tebow‘s style of play is not for every offense, but if the right coach is hired in Denver, one who will feature Tebow’s strengths, the Broncos will begin their rebuilding process. They have to rebuild, and it will start with selecting the right coach for Tebow.

» I sincerely hope Texans owner Bob McNair needs to understand it takes a tough-minded team to win in the league. Houston is not as close as it might think.

» The Jets cannot get a play from any front seven defender, and since their blitzes no longer get to the quarterback, their playoff success will be tied to how well Mark Sanchez plays. He played well enough to win Sunday but the defense proved, once again, it is not the same unit as in 2009.

» Miami being 1-7 at home tells me there will be many changes this offseason, starting with a new coach. Jon Gruden might not have been interested in the University of Miami job, but he might have to consider the Dolphins.

» You think team chemistry and youth make a difference? Examine the Bengals’ effort Sunday and all of the sudden quarterback Carson Palmer does not seem like the problem. Jerome Simpson, who the Bengals took in the second round of the 2008 draft from Coastal Carolina, finally showed the skills that made him a high choice. What we learned from this game is more is less and chemistry does matter.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi.

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I Should Not Be Here

I find myself getting drawn back into work. The other days I was invited to a meeting by a company that I am doing a project for. I am assessing their chances of doubling their present revenue in the next two and  half years. They aren’t small now but their goal is a still a tough one. So my job was to look at the leadership and let the big chief know if he had the players. In the meantime the company CEO had a big consulting company come in and look at all the process and product inner workings to see if that could be improved.

But that’s not the story. I have done this type of work before and if I am lucky, I will do it again.

So, I am called into a meeting with the other consultants. I had shied away from any contact with them until I finished my part of the job. I tend to go native during the information gathering and then step away and get very objective about what I see. But now I was pretty much finished so the company thought it would be a good time for me to meet up with two of their on point guys. They were both okay people but very trendy thirty-something types who didn’t know what they didn’t know. No problem on the process side but rather on the people side. The meeting quickly shifted into “the three of them” dynamic with me being shrugged off repeatedly. So it was them and the company exec (not the CEO..he was traveling) and me off to the side.

I am not prescient by some gift of intellect. I am by experience (40 years of it). I found myself getting into that old “I should not be here”  feeling. And frankly the meeting was a waste of time. Both theirs and mine. Not their fault, nor mine for not getting up, thanking them for the time and walking out. That would have been crass. Maybe even Howard Roark would have stayed but just shut the hell up. I tried but on several points I just spoke up. They can’t fire me. I am not their employee and part of my promise to myself was to do my work my way.

Now, I am not Howard Roark or even a mini-Roark. I am just a guy who likes doing my work my way and if I do it well, then my customers may appreciate it. many have and some don’t. That’s the breaks. Sometimes you’re just the elephant in the room.

Reminds me of a date with a girl who was I was once set up with. From the time I picked her up I could tell that this was not going to be a fit. She was a 7 or 8 in looks but a 3 or 4 in personality. I shifted plans rather quickly and took her to a restaurant nearby her house rather than this nicer place I had in mind. After dinner I took her right back home. She got out of the car and said, you don’t need to walk me to the door. Now I hadn’t budged. I was still sitting in the car.  I wasn’t planning to, I said. I did stay to make sure she got in the front door safely and then drove off. In the world of dating women, this was little more than a long foul ball that landed in the seats well to left of the left field foul pole.

Later I found out that she recently met some other guy and was hot for him. I was wondering why she didn’t just call me, explain and cancel the date. A couple of months later after that guy bailed she got word to me that she would like top try again. All I could see was that ball floating out beyond the left field foul pole. Someone caught that ball. Just not me.

The answer was “no” of course.

Well, actually honey, it’s not!

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Back to the Zoo-SSR

One of the unfortunate, got a job. One of us might be the better way of saying it. A zoo animal got a job. He is back in the zoo habitat. He sent out emails thanking those of us who took time to meet with him, share our job search strategy and give him words of encouragement.

Then he asked one of us to take him off a the job search support email list for other zoo animals out of work.

I was there but I am not one of those  people any more. I am employed. Distance from my rank past is good. Yes, distance is good.

What a maroon. A nice guy but a maroon. So he lost a job that threw him onto the unemployment line, finally found another job and now he thinks it’s over? He’ll never have to look for another job? Give me a F@#King break!

The company, he writes trying hard to convince himself, is hiring so they are doing really (really) well. He is doing a good job of convincing himself that he’ll never have to worry about that 4 pm feeding when the zoo keepers throw meat in his cage at work.

Here is his message edited so that you the reader can’t figure out the company so I can protect this zoo animal from  being identified.

You can take me off the list.  I got a job offer for a position at XYZ company and I start on January 4.  XYZ produces software and they are growing and hiring.

 fri/P8056599ws.jpg<br/> Copyright © Adrian Wadley (2005) All Rights Reserved.

Look at me! I am safe on the great second base of life.

You are never safe. Not really. And that’s okay. That’s the reason we can be taught to hunt. Just like other animals. Like the Cheetah and the Jackal and the Lion.

We weren’t made to be safe. Once you get that, you never asked to be taken off a list of hunters.


For those who don’t belong in zoos


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Let’s call it even

So it’s Xmas, that holiday time of the year when my people (Children of Israel) fleece the Christian world as a revenge for blaming us for the crucifixion of Yeshua Ben Yosef. How do we do this. Well, we own Hollywood which puts out those wonderful holiday fils and most of the big department stores that you other folks shop in during your crazed, Xmas buying spree.

So let’s call it even, okay?

Of course I never even had a ticket to the big event. He was being crucified up on Golgotha and nearest I could get was a nose bleed seat up on the wall of Jerusalem. In fact my seat was up by the fish gate so I really had to crane my neck to see any of it (and I couldn’t see much).


It might be hard for most Christians to really understand the simple fact that Yeshua (Jesus just in case you still haven’t picked up on this) was Jewish. He probably was a rabbi so running around with graven images and idols was not his thing. If he could come back today (I haven’t seen him alive since that Friday in twenty something A.D.) he would be somewhat shocked and insulted.  But the word was that he was a genuinely nice guy except when you screwed around with really sacred hold stuff then he could be a real bear. Remember, this was the  guy who picked up a whip and began “swinging it” around when he saw the money changers doing business in the temple precinct. I guess he didn’t need any pocket change.


So the the Church eventually exonerated us. After all the proof was there all the time. We don’t do crucifixions. We stone people to death or at least we used to. Now stone age tribes in the Middle East use stoning. I used to get stoned back in the day but rocks weren’t involved. Just weed.

Anyway, while the church was diddling little boys for sexual release, they finally took time out to realized that the Jews didn’t put a hit out on Yeshua. He put the hit out on himself. He called it in. He believed that he had to die so he could purge the sins of the world (Wow, that worked really well, didn’t it?) and then he had to come back again. Can’t do that unless you die a martyr’s death. He could have taken poison or ran a sword or dagger under his ribs but that is suicide. Okay for the Romans, who actually killed Yeshua..they loved crucifixions (refer to Spartacus) but not for Jews. You see it was against their beliefs and Yeshua Ben Yosef was a believing man.

Anyway, the church let us off the hook so to speak but Mel Gibson, an important Christian in his own right, didn’t seem to get the word.



But he decided not to hear it and  besides, antisemitism is fun.

In the end, as long as there are people like Gibson we have to continue getting even and frankly Hollywood and department stores are one of our best ways. You make money that you then give to us for things you don’t really need. What could be any better. That way you feel better and don;t have to deal with such historic facts like Yeshua being Jewish and that once the office of pontiff (pope) was held by one Gaius Julius Cesar.

Veni, Vedi, Vici

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Another post from THE JACKAL

I had to meet with a zoo animal today (Part Two)

So I had lunch with my zoo animal.  He gave me a good overview of his last job of three years.  Basically this role was less demanding than a part time job.  [His words, not mine].  STAYED THREE (3) YEARS!  How would you like to have this person on your payroll? I don’t think any more details are relevant since he convinced me that the best thing would be to exit him from our organization.  I got to talk to the Silicon Valley Warrior as I think may be a fifth category, the domesticated zoo animal.  At this point all evidence indicates this was a bad hire for our habitat, just not a good fit.

Recognizing the Type I Error

My assessment is that he would be a better fit for a large company.  His Handler was interested in the lesson learned in this hiring situation.  I liked that the manager wanted to learn from this hire, taking responsibility is an important competency to be successful.   Frankly this hiring decision type I error, also known as an “error of the first kind“, an α error, or a “false positive“: the error of rejecting a null hypothesis when it is actually true.  Plainly speaking we thought this was a good hire and it was not.

Owning your Mistakes

I once read a great blog post from Marc Andreessen October 12, 2009 How to hire the best people you’ve ever worked with http://pmarca-archive.posterous.com/how-to-hire-the-best-people-youve-ever-worked We have a complex product so the ramp up curve for a new hire is long.  In this case we identified the hiring mistake relatively quickly at four months.  Given our complexity this was enough time to determine if we made a mistake but not too long.  The good news is we identified our mistake and took action.

Does your company own it mistakes?  If so, what is your track record with hiring and admitting when you make a mistake?

The Jackal


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