Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob the Leader

Bob the Leader has been a leader as long as I've known him. I learned this first-hand way back in ninth grade when he told me he was into reading and writing poetry.

Back in the day of our Catholic all-boys hormone hot-dish, a place our Benedictine masters had us believe was high school, guys didn't tell other guys those things unless they had the stuff to live dangerous lives of saints-in-waiting-to-be-stoned or maybe as leaders of a community of some sort some day.

Turns out Bob's now leading a community. His makes its way in the cut-throat competitive construction materials business.

They're doing well in this economy. And Bob the Leader's doing it the way he did it in ninth grade: leading with the heart of a poet; maybe as the only poet in the cut-throat construction materials business.

How's that for dangerous....

Bob the Leader's seen this kind of economy before. Last time was the early 90s. That's when Bob nailed the deal to supply and deliver the drywall for The Mall of America. And all that drywall for the Mall of America is how he and his team and maybe even America beat the recession back then.

His secret was the same in the 90s as it is now: "Old fashioned values like hard work, honesty, doing what we say we're going to do, never lose their sense of fashion, and wear smartly if you're brave enough to wear them every day."

Bob the Leader goes even deeper when he cuts to the heart of Community Centricity, "Overcoming oneself is about the struggle over the destructive ego. Selfless service is what we should offer up. Success and happiness are not the primary goal, but a byproduct of service and doing the right thing."

Hey Washington, Wall Street, Cable Wide Mouths, are you listening to this guy...?

Today to make sure they're on track, Bob the Leader leads his company regularly through real-life scenarios, testing itself to see if it is holding true to its values, its beliefs.

When he does this, Bob offers one simple thought: "Bottom line should be read last, like an epilogue to a good book."

Oh my, how that is well said. And said, I should imagine, as all men of letters in the cut-throat construction materials industry would say. Makes me wonder how great it would be if more of our companies and communities had leaders as poets.

Do you know poets with the values of Bob the Leader, leaders who are poets in your midst?

Wouldn't their values wear smartly in our communities if we were brave enough to wear them daily?

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Friday, October 23, 2009


Thomas Merton the monk had in his daily journal 46 years ago this line from Karl Barth:

"Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that they ought not to take their own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously..."


Is that a line invented for today or what? What if all of our talking TV heads began their shows with that line? What if Congress made that a law? That'd be acceptable government over-reach, wouldn't it?

Knowing what to believe, whether in someone or something or yourself, is next to impossible these days. And keeping the faith once you believe is even harder.

Today you can get to unbelief before the next commercial break. And stay there forever.

I've known Bob the Leader for years and just learned the other day how he leads his company regularly through real-life scenarios, testing its beliefs to see if it is holding true in the cut-throat, competitive, construction materials industry.

More with Bob the Leader next week. Until then I'll wonder a lot about how many and how often companies and communities hold all-hands chalk-talk sessions, game-planning what they seriously believe and whether they are keeping the faith.

I like these words from Merton and Barth from so long ago because we're all in communities, whether family, work, civic, school, church, and we are surrounded and pounded relentlessly by serious unbelief these days.

All we need, these gurus tell us, is to know and then to hang on tightly to our beliefs. No matter, they say, if they're tiny or grand.

Getting serious about what your community believes means you're on your way to faith which means you're on your way to hope, which are waypoints to good, to life, to destiny.

How does this work for you? Does your company or community know what it believes? And what about its unbeliefs, fears, predjudices, angst, power-trips? Does it see them too? And take them not too seriously?

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Pete the CMO

I gathered two quick impressions of my friend Pete the CMO the other day.

First, he's easily impressed. Surprisingly so for a New York Chief Marketing Officer guy.

Just take him to lunch at the down-home Five-Eight cheeseburger joint in Minneapolis. The $12 bill for two will impress him so much he'll grab the tab. In Manhattan, where Pete hangs out, $12 wouldn't get you half-a-burger. And Pete, as you'll soon read, knows a bit or two about restaurant tabs.

Second thing about Pete, he's one of our planet's best marketing/social/community nurturing talents. And what a great talent to have at this moment, the moment of Community Centricity.

Two-plus years ago Pete was a C-level marketing guy at Avaya leading global this-n-that. One thing about the chiefy levels of Corporate America: For all its power and trappings, it is a lonely place. And Pete recognized there was no place, no community of CMO peers focused exclusively on helping each other.

Sure there are plenty of high-brow conference panels, boards and trade groups out there; places where Pete says "You get sold to." But nothing exclusively comprising "peers who know as much about my challenges and problems as I do," Pete said.

So Pete did what any social marketing community nurturing guru would do: He started having dinners with fellow CMOs as his day-job travels took him around the country.

In early 2007 Pete organized his first CMO dinner. Six people showed up. The roundtable dinner discussion ranged from helping one CMO who'd just been promoted get more comfortable in the new role to brainstorming better customer engagement ideas with another CMO to thoughts about building trust and reputation with another CMO.

Wow. To be a fly on that table.....

Today Pete and The CMO Club he founded (after jumping off the corporate C-Level high dive) numbers more than 800 Chief Marketing Officers. "It's called a club on purpose," Pete says. "Everything is driven by the CMOs in the club." And it's Pete's full-time job to listen to what the club needs and wants.

Today Pete hosts dinners for CMOs in 15 cities three or four times a year.

The CMO Club website ( is an exclusive place on the web for its members. It's one of the best social media & community sites out there. Which is the reason well over 100 CMOs spend time there every day listening and learning from one another.

And twice a year The CMO Club hosts its Thought Leadership summits. It's quite an experience to be in a room for two days with high wattage corporate marketing execs.

Like last spring when Pete and his club thought it would be good to hear from a group of young millenials about their perspectives of today's market and work world.

CMOs didn't react so well when one kid on the panel bragged about his habit of being on Facebook during staff meetings. Darn near started a food fight. And lunch was still 30 minutes from being served.

I remember watching Pete, waiting for him to panic. Not a chance. He loved every minute of it.

Because Pete gets community. And community is at it's finest when it is open, dynamic, engaged, authentic and, yes, even messy.

As a community, The CMO Club is one of the finest. 40-50 new CMOs join every month. And here's the thing, of all the stuff Pete does to breathe life into The CMO Club, there's one thing he doesn't do: sell.

One CMO told Pete the secret sauce of the club is simple. "You have my best interests in mind." Pete's approach is to let the club evolve as the members will have it evolve.

For Pete the CMO, doing this well means he follows. And the club leads. And the club grows.

That's Community Centricity.

Isn't it funny how the more you follow your community, the less you have to sell?


twitter: tjmorin

Friday, October 2, 2009

Community Centricity

You ever been planning and budgeting a new business year and let the words of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins frame your current market scenario like this:

Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

I've never used those words in a business plan but maybe I should. Those words all trades, their gear and tackle and trim suggest We. Not Me. As in only a customer and me. Or only a supplier and me. Or just an employee and me.

Those words and these All things counter, original, spare, strange suggest community. As in customers and suppliers and partners and employees and, then (and only then) me.

Together. Fickle, freckled (who knows how?).

You hear a lot of chatter about customer centricity these days. I don't really get it yet. And maybe no one I ask does either, since everyone has their own definition of it.

Even Wikipedia is useless. It devotes just 29 words to the topic.

Some big deal This Next Big Thing in business is.

Sounds a lot like the last thing: It's me against you. And if you're my customer or supplier or partner or employee you have MY money in your pocket and I'm comin' to get it swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.

Maybe we're at a moment ripe for community centricity. Where you succeed because the other guy really knows, believes and trusts "you've got my best interests in mind."

That's what my friend Pete the CMO said the other day when I asked him about the secret sauce of The CMO Club, a community of 800 CMOs he founded two years ago. (More about Pete next week...)

Community Centricity says my customers, employees, partners, suppliers, even competitors are part of the story, this Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;

Community Centricity says everyone has something to offer and it is good and it isn't to be feared. So go ahead and comment on our work together and share it and rate it with your Facebook friends.

Community Centricity says I'm not only going to sell you my product, but I'm going to work with you to attract another customer for you because you have it.

Community Centricity says I'm going to organize a Twitter following of customers so you can learn everything from everyone I do business with: Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Community Centricity says I'm obligated to be a thought leader and deliver you the best ideas the market has to offer, whether I thought of them or one of my competitors did.

Community Centricity says, like Pete the CMO said, I have your best interests in mind in All things counter, original, spare, strange.

Then, and maybe only then, you'll trust me enough to buy something I have to offer.