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Two friends embarked on write-a-book path to success

Two friends embarked on write-a-book path to success

 

It's been satisfying to watch two close friends be among those seizing the opportunity that the era of self-publishing has offered entrepreneurs to seek the financial reward or personal satisfaction of writing a book about their business. 
Teri Citterman 
The first is Teri Citterman, who worked for me a decade ago and whose book, From the CEO's Perspective: Leadership in Their Own Words, was published almost three years ago as the collection of interviews with 20 CEOs, all from different industries, each among the most recognized in his or her field.

The other is Al Davis, a friend and former longtime client, who is a founder of Revitalization Partners, a Seattle-based business management and advisory firm whose business footprint has spread across the
Al Davis 
West Coast.

His book, written with partner Bill Lawrence, is
Insights to Grow, Build or Save Your Business!: Highly Successful Business Advisory Consultants Share Their Uncommon Advice For Common Business Situations. It is a selection from the columns they've written over the past three years. 
                                                
As a retired publisher and the writer of a weekly email column for the past nine years, I've found a growing number of friends wanting to explore the possibilities of column or book. And in some cases I've encouraged them or offered to provide some guidance.

In fact, I've come to believe, and espouse, that business people with experiences from which others could benefit ought to seriously consider doing a regular column, as email or web blog, either to just share insights or as the first step toward a book.

I had a forgettable bit part in the production of Citterman's book. She asked me if I would introduce her to two of the CEOs she wished to meet to interview and I declined, not being aware at the time of the positive impact she would have on the CEOs she interviewed or the quality of the pieces that she would produce for the book.

As it turned out, she reached out to the two CEOs on her own and both have become her friends and admirers of her work and her interview ability, along with the 18 others she interviewed to create her book.

When she had a debut party for the book, she asked me to say a few words on her behalf and I joked to those on hand that one of the reasons she was successful with the book was that she had paid no attention to me.

In Davis' case, it was a series of conversations in which I urged him to do a column and advised him how to go about it that resulted in a bi-weekly column over the past three years, then the book, which is a collection of the columns grouped by subject.

I learned of Davis' book in amusing fashion, being summoned to the Fairmont Hotel table where mutual friend Mike Kunath gathers friends and associates most afternoons to discuss an array of topics and where Davis was waiting to hand me his newly published book. He told me to open the cover and read what was printed on the facing page, which was a thank you to several people, and to me for convincing him he could write a column!

Citterman had already been doing some executive coaching and told me she was "hearing a common theme from CEOs. They were wondering, not WHO are the next generation of leaders, but WHERE are the next generation of leaders."

She says she then came across research that said nearly 60 percent of U. S .companies face a leadership talent shortage.

"So, I got curious and started asking my clients and other CEOs more questions ,which lead to an amazing amount of wisdom and insight, that I wanted to share with others," she explained. "Thus the book."

When I asked her what role the book plays in her business, she said: "The book is the air I breathe. It is the platform for my entire business."

Citterman has proven to be a successful entrepreneur as well as writer, since in addition to coaching CEOs and their executive teams, she has created what she calls a "forum series called 'From the CEO's Perspective.' Every quarter I moderate a conversation with three CEOs discussing whatever leadership topic I think is most pressing," she explained.

And Citterman, who was selected last year to be a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council, is creating this fall "an exclusive, invite-only Leadership Lab to help newer executives elevate their thinking from the CEO's perspective."

When I asked Davis about the blog that led to the book, he said: "it was started as a business development tool. But as we found more things to write about, it became a way to use the wide experience that we had in business and finance to give something back to the business community, especially owners and managers of small and mid-sized companies."

"One of our biggest issues with our clients and potential clients is that they often wait until it's too late or almost too late before they talk with someone," Davis explained. "We hope that this book will demonstrate that they are not alone in their problem and there is someone to talk with about the seriousness of the problem."

The meeting with Davis and Kunath, who does his own occasional blog on personal experiences and perspectives (and who gets credit for first introducing me to Citterman 15 years ago or so), wound up with : "Now it's your turn to write a book."

So with some 470 Harps to choose from, I've decided to explore the possibility of collecting some in a book. Although the Harps were never meant to be anything other than an outlet to share information on interesting people, companies and issues, it has developed a business aspect as I get increasing number of outreaches from people who would like to explore doing their own email column or blog and want guidance on how to go about it.

And should a book of Harps emerge, I doubt anyone would be more pleased than a Spokane friend, Kate Spencer, a media person with the Spokane Club. A decade ago when I was evaluating the idea of creating a column and discussed it with her, she said: "You should call it Flynn's Harp, since the Harp is such a beautiful Irish instrument and if you wish to rag -or Harp-- on someone or something, it will be appropriate. So the name was instantly set that day.

And since Spencer has now written a book herself about life experiences, she frequently has followed our conversations about what might come from the growing number of columns with a firm: "Write the damn book!"
  

 

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Microsoft leadership changes stir discussions of competition-collaboration workplace issue

Some are seeing the sea change in the leadership styles of the new CEOs of both Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as evidence that even the region's most competition-driven company might be acknowledging that the collaborative focus of workplace millenials could be superseding the competitive trademark of boomers.

Among those sharing that sense of a possible dramatic shift at Microsoft is John Buller, who has spent his life in sports and retail environments where keeping score and winning were the keys to success. But he admits now, as he observes what he perceives as a major workplace shift, that he was always dogged by the sense that somehow collaboration had a place in the success equation.

Anna Liotta

Buller was a top executive at the old Bon Marche retail chain, as well as successful restaurateur, president of Tully's Coffee, and in his collegiate days in the late '60s a Husky basketball star then an assistant coach.

He sees the ascendance of Satya Nadella to the top role at Microsoft and the hiring of Susan Desmond-Hellman as CEO of the Gates Foundation as significant.

So does Anna Liotta, Seattle author and speaker who counsels businesses on unlocking generational codes to enhance workplace effectiveness.

John Buller

"I think it's fundamental for Microsoft, it if is to have exponential growth again, to shift from combative to collaborative in its workplace environment," Liotta said. "Microsoft employees don't now talk with pride about working at Microsoft, and this newest generation will need attitudes and beliefs they share and need to be proud to be where they work and work together in a collaborative environment in order to want to stay."

As a recent article in Puget Sound Business Journal pointed out, "Nadella is a very different man from (Steve) Ballmer. Where Ballmer is bombastic and over the top, Nadella is understated and thoughtful."

Buller makes the point that a similar shift in thinking could have had a role in the selection of Susan Desmond-Hellman, M.D., plucked from her role as chancellor of the University of California San Francisco to be the first non-Microsoft CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Of course Microsoft isn't the only regional company where must-win attitudes have been the key to success. It's merely the major local company whose recent eye-catching changes in command at the corporate and foundation have sparked the opportunity for conversations about what lies ahead in the workplace culture.

It would be difficult to think of many successful companies in the Seattle area for which competitive juices haven't played a ke y role in their success.

Teri Citterman

Thus the thoughts about boomer competitiveness giving way to millennial collaborations inevitably stir conversations where doubt or disagreement are sometimes as much in evidence as agreement.

Buller, in fact, is an interesting persona to be focusing on the transition, which he is doing to the extent of packaging a seminar and producing a blog to help guide corporate executives.

Buller is intimately familier with culture changes since his role as senior team leader for Federated Stores and its The Bon outlets was to engineer one, guiding a shift from "a clerk culture to a sales culture," as he describes the charge.

It was 20 years ago that his Survival Guide for Bureaucratic Warriors was published, with chapters written on first-class flights as he crisscrossed the country to train employees on changing their culture.

"Warriors work for a passion in their lives while soldiers just take orders," Buller said, summing up the premise for the book, and suggesting that "the way to make millenials more passionate and engaged, becoming warriors, is to let them have ownership."

"It's a fallacy to suggest that competition and collaboration are diametrically opposed," Liotta said. "Millenials do love to win, but within that they love to also know their part in the winning, meaning millenials want a lot of feedback on how they are doing," Liotta said of the generation that numbers 76 million in the workplace. That number, incidentally, compares with 80 million boomers.

"A winning attitude is absolutely in line with an attitude of collaboration," she added. "Millenials just don't accept the bankrupt strategy of win at all costs."

Liotta comes by her generational savvy from birth on since she notes in her book Unlocking Generational Codes that "as number 18 in a family of 19 children, I started to experience generational impacts on life at a very early age."

She is CEO of Resultance Inc., where her consulting services and guidance on generational issues have brought her before business organizations around the country.

Another person who has explored workplace issues, but from the CEO's viewpoint, is Teri Citterman, whose recently publishedFrom the CEO's Perspective is a collection of interviews with CEO's from a range of companies on the challenges of leadership.

"A characteristic of millenials is that they expect their ideas will be heard or appreciated, even though they haven't necessarily earned the right to be heard or appreciated," said Citterman, also a GenXer.

"Yes, collaboration is replacing competition as a workplace theme, you can see that everywhere," she said. "competition is a four-letter word."

This discussion is likely to become more pervasive at lunch meetings and cocktail visits, particularly for boomers, or the even older generation tagged Traditionalists, who would have to change the codes of a lifetime to believe companies can win out over competitors without competition being the mantra.

As Buller and I discussed this over coffee for our interview, together we came up with the tagline: "In today's world you will have to learn to collaborate in order to win." 

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