Pulte Homes looks for a new CEO — and doesn’t find one

At least not yet. Fundamental to any succession process is having a new leader groomed and ready to go, either from inside or outside, before making change. When that fundamental isn’t present, well, the vacuum starts to make that bad sucking sound. You know the one: When the machine stumbles upon a corner of a rug and it starts to whine, forcing you to turn the switch off.

This analogy is not far off when it comes to Atlanta-based Pulte Homes. For more on where the company may go from here, please see a piece published last week in “The Saporta Report,” a locally run digital publication that reports on business and civic activity in Metro Atlanta.


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POV on leadership: Seven short bursts

Note: This originally appeared as a client e-letter on April 1, 2016
Dear Clients and Colleagues:
Bringing back a previous format for this month’s letter. Here are some short bursts, or in this case, the seven dwarfs of observation and interpretation:
1.) Quit obsessing over Donald Trump. Both directions — to the negative and positive. What works for him only works for The Donald. With all due respect to business media who have to write something, there are no key lessons learned (accentuated using Dana Carvey voice) based on what Trump has been able to accomplish. Not even his Twitter prowess can be replicated across everyone’s self proclaimed integrated platforms. Ben Carson had as many Facebook followers but never caught fire like the Donald has. Get a message or idea that connects — good, bad or ugly — if you’re really that desperate for exposure. 
2.) Political affiliations aside, who are you supporting for President? Why? Business leaders need to be prepared to provide an answer this time around. Blending into the wall paper, giving money to both sides and having mealy mouth answers when asked is fading like the same color of that wallpaper. Kathleen Parker is spot on with the following:  “There’s a price to pay for silence.” True that! https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/few-republicans-have-shown-the-courage-to-stand-against-trump/2016/03/22/08ee8c88-f067-11e5-85a6-2132cf446d0a_story.html?wpisrc=nl_pdrainbow
3.) Remember, social media only echoes current sentiment. Social media, or any media for that matter, doesn’t lead and direct anything except piles of information and attention deficit. Quit posting the passing article of the day if you don’t have something worth adding from your own point of view.  Obviously there are exceptions here but not many in a leadership context.

4.) Small talk can lead to larger engagement. Have we forgotten how to talk, much less engage with each other in normal conversation? Here are some reminders for those who still choose to speak to each other. Lead with the weather to create small talk. Don’t discuss politics or religion unless you’re consulting a politico or minister. Genuine engagement with others now officially represents a task for some, not a normal past-time. Soon there will be a smartphone campaign with the following slogan: “Look Up!”

5.) Encourage, encourage, ENCOURAGE. Even McKinsey, masters of everything leadership- and matrix-driven, cites encouragement as the number one leadership responsibility. Unlike the recent SHRM study that repeated the same tired necessary attributes to be a leader, good looks, stature, image, etc., encouragement is actually something you can do that benefits others. How many times did someone encourage you today? Return the favor to receive the favor. Simple yet not widely held practice.

6.) Keep moving past web-based platitudes such as the one the Korn Ferry Hay Stack posted the other day: “Majority of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies say they have leaders of tomorrow,” or something stupid to similar effect. Countless others not worth mentioning. Most serious observers quit putting stock in the commercially obsessed Fortune lists a long time ago, yet that message hasn’t reached down yet. Not to worry. The next generation will put that one to final rest soon enough.

7.) Finally, get some rest. The leadership industrial complex is now espousing a lot of down time to find yourself or the “white space” necessary to remain highly charged and creative. Whatever. Try unplugging and raising a glass with trusted friends. Type A obsessions can be re-channeled when you get back to the office. A pre-existing client emailed last week to say they were taking some much needed time off. Bravo! I can’t remember getting that type of message from someone in the Left Brain crowd. Some of my dear friends don’t even realize how tired they look sometimes.

Happy April (We Don’t Suffer Any) Fools Day,

Jeremy C. Garlington
Point of View LLC
4060 Peachtree Rd./Suite D-#117
Atlanta, GA, 30319
Phone: 404-606-0637
Web site: www.pointofviewllc.com
TGR web log:  www.povblogger.blogspot.com 

SEC Primary: Mouths shut, feet up

On a day when everyone is talking, tweeting and posting yet (going out on a limb here) probably not meaningfully connecting with each another, it’s time to review a few leadership truths. Or lessons that seem to have gone missing:

1.) To not have a position is to have a position. Be ready with your own when asked. When Saddam Hussein called the U.S. ambassador for Iraq, April Glaspie, prior to invading Kuwait in 1990 (millennials, look up your history), he asked if the United States had a position on Kuwait. When the ambassador said that the U.S. did not have a position, Hussein rolled his tanks right across the border, starting the first Gulf War and a mess that remains, well, messy 25+ years later. There was obviously more to the situation, but at a simplistically speaking, this validated story has been widely cited as an example of when a non-position is a position.

Masked caricatures of Bush 43 vs. Saddam Hussein

A similar dynamic holds in this year’s presidential election. If you’re choosing silence and your job involves leading others, you might want to make sure corresponding actions are clear about where you stand before uttering any words. Because if you don’t, others are going to make their own conclusions. We need more balanced leaders willing to share more sense and sensibility right now. Yet for some reason that’s not happening. Go ahead and speculate on the reasons why if you want, but it’s a pointless exercise to try and figure out what others are thinking or doing. Focus on doing something yourself.

Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton

2.) Should you choose to share how you’re viewing this year’s election and which candidate you’re supporting, make sure your point of view is actually informed by something substantive rather than the sound bite or talking point of the day. There’s really nothing worse than echoing what someone else has said and claiming that view as your own without any original thought. Besides that’s what social media is for, to echo and reflect — not lead and direct. Throw in the cable channels, too, for exhaust to fan the flames.

3.) If these first two options are too tiring, then do what Mama used to instruct via double negative: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. The process being what it is, it will continue whether you say/do anything or not. It turns out that even some things in this world remain greater than us.

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Note on what will soon be a fading memory, this year’s Oscars: Please don’t feel compelled to go see “The Revenant,” if you haven’t already crossed that one off your list. Gory, long, depressing and not even Leonardo DiCaprio’s best work. Instead watch Super Tuesday returns tonight. It’s kind of the same thing, or two for price of one, from the comfort of your own hotel room.

Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio


Great cartoon (pre-Iowa caucuses)

Courtesy: Economist Magazine (February 2016)

It’s comforting to know that a picture is still worth a thousand words, or in this case, 400 characters, via Twitter.

Ode to a Kingmaker

January 6, 2016 (Feast of the Epiphany)

Life tributes are normally made at funerals or retirement parties with the latter now completely faded from the landscape. Executives evidently now have plenty of watches to guard time when they ride off into the sunset.

This tribute will be made to a figure who announced a long anticipated retirement late last month, yet based on track record and values, will never be “done.” Not in this life or beyond should you share a similar belief system.

While this figure may be obvious to long-time readers of the TGR blog, it almost doesn’t matter who this person is from a material point of view. Despite the fact that the name has currency as one of the most influential business figures of the 20th and 21st century. Hint: It’s not Willard Scott although the famous “Today Show” weatherman announced that he was going out on the same day.

Ode to a Kingmaker: Long live the King!

Kingmakers by definition are those who make a king or ruler. Applying this definition in a real world sense, great leaders are made. The ones who do the making are generally Machiavellian by nature, meaning their work is done in the shadows, or outside the normal zones. Highly intangible yet valuable, in other words. For an old example from the movies, think Robert Duvall who played Tom Hagen, the consigliere role in “The Godfather.” Their difference is felt at the highest human decision-making and judgment levels, or where choices are made to fill consequential jobs. To achieve this status means you have to not only be willing to make kings but also take the long personal journey not unlike the one taken by the Three Kings, a mysterious but heavily influential group whose travels are marked today on the Christian liturgical calendar.

Making kings is not a practiced art anymore. The art has given way to science and data with less and less relationship-based, long-term thinking by the day. Kingmakers have disintegrated into board specialists or operatives in politics, and consultants or self appointed trusted advisors to CEOs. Emphasis on the individual has given way to team at all costs, and while this is understandable in large, complex corporate environments, standing out as an outsider from another industry no longer holds as much sway. Consummate insiders rule the day, one that has seen its share of economic stagnation over the past five years despite pockets of growth in some sectors. Expert keepers of the status quo now give way to unicorns in entirely new sectors since their paths rarely cross.

This tribute’s subject represents a kingmaker of sorts who was present at the creation of a craft called headhunting, which now is executive search, a discipline that few have mastered much less grasped. Through a combination of hard work — first modeled in an old General Store where his family lived during the Depression — Jesuit upbringing, sharp instincts, great education, hero worshipping and the gift of seduction, this person literally willed himself to do great recruiting work for big brand name companies and institutions. He did so by building relationships and reputation with leaders who held boldfaced names in the old print world. This person’s work at the Top would always be recognized because he made sure it was.

For anyone still left wondering, this figure’s name is Gerard R. Roche or “Gerry” by his friends and foes. To paraphrase the old Irish blessing, may the road rise to meet you wherever you may go from here. And may that same “straight ahead” road lead to more forks where you can touch eternity — while always saving energy to make one more phone call.

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Courtesy: LinkedIn Pulse
Should you want to learn more about this person and what he “feels strongly about,” watch the following clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWLUyGnEFQI. The highest compliment to be paid to presenter is that he or she made you laugh, think and/or cry. There’s a little of all three in this one.

#Lead it forward: Send it in!

Credit: Pinnacle Performance Champions

#Lead it forward will attempt to compile, and then distill and publish, a list of leaders who exemplify paying it forward. Unlike the political realm, where it’s all about serving an agenda, #Lead it forward will attempt to gather examples of those who have paid something forward for someone else or a greater cause. That something could be a business referral, encouragement, access and/or special gift that otherwise isn’t known. Examples don’t necessarily need to be brand or boldfaced names in the news.  Here’s a literal example to get things going:


Tammy Carnahan owns the blog URL, Lead it Forward. She’s been a teacher, principal, and now serves as a human resource instructor, according to her profile. TGR does not know Tammy, per se, but definitely would like to first recognize her as a leader who literally leads it forward.

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Which came first, the relationship (chicken) or the transaction (egg)?

Kevin Costner
Credit: ifc.com

Conventional business thought when you’re selling a product or service says build relationships based on mutually identified need and the rewards will follow. Call it the Business Field of Dreams Theory. Except instead of  Kevin Costner looking for his Dad in the corn stalks, Warren Buffett shows up with bags of cash.

Warren Buffett
Credit: DealBreaker

What happens now is the transaction ends up defining the relationship, not the other way around. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — think Facebook, Uber and Airbnb in an exponential marketplace. Balance between transactions at all costs vs. relationship represents a profound shift that helps explain resistance to change in most enterprise-level operating environments.  It’s hard to instill trust and confidence when you’re worried about how much you’re going to get paid, or vice versa, how much you’re not going to get paid or save in costs.

Consider the following example. New CEO Bob wants to improve the quality of his Corp.’s audit and financial controls, which he doesn’t believe are identifying enough cost. Early in his tenure, Bob turns to a known relationship, a major auditing firm that he used at a previous employer. There are no conflicts so CEO proceeds to advise his board that the company is going to change auditors. He presents the business case, or the often lost Why.

A paranoid board, which named Bob CEO a year ago, challenges the decision and makes a single request: Could we instead go back to our current auditor and ask them to improve their process first to see if key measurements could be improved? Too much change at one time might send the wrong signal since our financial performance is solid. Oh, and could the board’s Audit committee be fully apprised of what’s going on via daily dashboard updates? What began as a simple exercise has now turned into a lengthy review process chalk filled with bureaucracy.

Unfortunately enterprise businesses now have to deal with these types of dynamics and behaviors regularly largely due to fear-based risk vs. reward scenarios. Two percent+ growth economies featuring lower wage, part-time jobs make everyone an expert at efficiency improvement.

Not to over-simplify a solution, but…What if we could return to a simpler relationship-driven environment such as the ones built with great mechanics, barbers or hair stylists and yard maintenance pros who populate the linear, or hourly marketplace? Relationship and transaction are one, and the complexities and obstacles, while always present, take a back seat. Here’s an example:

Victor Aldana is a 30-something landscaping professional who has been working in Atlanta for the past 15 years. A native of Honduras, Victor lives with his wife and three children in Peachtree Corners, Ga. He and his four-man crew provide great service and a visible, finished product. They don’t just cut the lawn and leave; they edge, kill weeds, trim bushes and clean up after themselves, a novel idea in today’s world. See fuller description here: http://www.manta.com/c/mr4ych8/v-m-a-landscaping-service

I’ve known Victor for more than a year and have used and referred him regularly since he first started mowing my girl friend’s yard. Always pleasant, always professional and highly responsive (text and email even when he’s mowing) and above the standard norm. In addition to the yard, he’s taken on separate projects, such as clipping trees and our newest mutual endeavor, deck improvement.

With Victor and Co. in the mix, there’s no need to take on work outside my core competency, which does not include taking care of nearly an acre of land and repairing a deck in less than 365 days. He beats the heck out of the scared, lazy kids in the neighborhood — not to mention the entitled landscaping services that tell you they wouldn’t even consider stopping for less than $100.

The best part is you could call Victor at any time and he would at least try and help identify a solution if he couldn’t do it himself. How many of us can say the same thing?

This relationship transcends the transaction although admittedly he seems to enjoy getting paid in cash. As do I. But that’s another story.

Let’s resolve to quit making things so damn complex for complexity’s sake and do business the Victor Aldana way. If we can’t have more trust and confidence then let’s roll forward with more faith in the individual.

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Labor Day special: Forks vs. pivots

A friend named Dan recently took a new job with a firm based on another continent. While the job is elsewhere, his employer has said that he can still live in Atlanta where he, his wife and two children call home. The job became permanent following a short period of contract-for-hire status, a term to describe contract employees, who are constantly being re-classified in other realms of the shared economy. But that’s another story.
When Dan shared his news, he communicated ambivalence about the situation. The first level is pretty obvious: Lives in one place but has to commute to work in another. The next level isn’t so obvious to the normal passing eye.

Dan is like a lot of the working world now who rarely turns up in the normal stats: Former corporate type who struck out on his own a few years ago, has done well but always feels the pressure of needing to do and earn more. When told it sounded like he was making a career pivot vs. taking the fork in the road, he seemed to accept the view. Pivots are real and continue unabated amidst unprecedented change, constant transition and what feels like a leaderless march to what the world calls a new normal.

So far, or since the term was coined in 2011 by someone who ironically no longer holds the same influential role, it’s meant two percent economic growth, which is hardly enough to warrant happy economic talk emanating from political and business elites. According to Vet Jobs Early Eagle, a newsletter that helps veterans secure employment, roughly 86 million workers are not counted on the employment rolls and the work force participation rate stands at 62 percent, the lowest rate in 40 years.

Source: WSJ, August 22nd*

*Earlier projections have been revised upward for first half of 2015.

It’s important for those still attempting to manage their jobs and careers to understand differences between pivots and forks in the road. Pivots are temporary and generally reside in personal choice; forks are longer lasting and usually involve full relocation or deeper rooted change away from normal routines. Forks also can be involuntary.

Instead of taking the fork in the road that hasn’t emerged yet, I like to eat with my fork — at least for the time being. Recognize the difference and you’ll be a lot farther down the job/career management road than when you first started reading. Happy Labor Day,


Leadership Do’s and Don(u)ts

This post will attempt to reframe the litany of how to be a better leader lists that currently populate the universe. Content is the product of 15+ years of work, observation and engagement with business leaders, which at times, has been pretty revealing. These rules do not really take into account the cast of characters currently vying for the United States’ top leadership position although it probably should. That’s a whole other animal.

Main takeaway? Real leadership is a lot more difficult than it is authentic. Especially if you’re not able to suspend thyself for the sake of others, or essentially reverse course on some of the behaviors that secured the top job. Onto to the do’s and donuts:

1.)  The Double Do: Do as I say AND Do as I do. Dad used to say, “don’t do as I do — do as I say.” Fifty percent unfortunately isn’t going to cut it anymore. The right behaviors have to back the right words and vice versa. Here’s a test: When was the last time you did something selfless that wasn’t in your own self interest? Be honest.

2.) Do: Leaders are committed to and care about people. They’re personal and believe in the individual, where that person comes from and what makes them tick. All the time — not only when those same people who work for them can provide something they need. Business leaders wax on endlessly about relationships, but before the chicken came the egg, or the person. How many CEOs do you know who truly care about people vs. seducing those same people so they’ll do something for them? Chances are the individuals who understand this do stand out positively in your head and heart.

3.) Donut: Leaders aren’t thin skinned, and they don’t run and hide at the first sign of trouble. Digital media does not replace engagement. A client recently claimed, via email, that she was “insulted” when I asked her to honor an original work commitment. Either let’s get it done or forgo the project was the plea. This message was conveyed ironically by the same person who preferred to be emailed. The words left a lasting impression. Pleased to report there was a happy conclusion here, which included a written apology via note card sent in the snail mail.

4.) Leaders know the difference between public and private behavior. Hint: Private is going the way of Blackberry. Anything that you do or say now is public. Period. Work back from that extreme backwards if you remain convinced that private compartments are always private, including the time spent on-line.

5.) Others know where leaders stand, or what Bill George once called a True North compass. Purpose has replaced values as the buzzword du jour, but the truth remains that at some point an effective leader has to stand for something. Good, bad or ugly. Unlike political elections, it’s not a popularity contest — although even that truth may be changing before our eyes.

6.) Do: They’re creative and able to tell a story that helps frame a narrative larger than themselves. I don’t know many creative CEOs in the sense that they’re able to go outside the box, often the one they’ve created, to receive perspective that leads to change. They all say they do, but when it comes white knuckle time, most only want to go there temporarily until trouble passes. What should be a standard do is too often a donut. Care to trade a donut for helpful service? Inquire within: http://pointofviewllc.com/services/

7.) Do: Leaders are apolitical. First, this do rule is not what you may be thinking. Apolitical in this context does not mean taking neither side in a political contest. More to the point, it’s about being able to lead through competing constituencies. Think Peter Uberroth and Mitt Romney when they managed successful Olympic Games.

8.) Donut: Smartest man ruling the room syndrome is over, except in politics, which continues to be an exception for lot of things that might be defined as newly normal.

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What is a new narrative?

Note: This post has been adapted from a monthly e-letter to clients and colleagues.

Dear Clients and Colleagues:

What is a new narrative? Great question that deserves a better answer. Put simply, narrative is a story. In the context of leadership and career transition, a new narrative often takes the form of a bio (brief biography) that frames where someone has been vs. where they want to go. This starting block has to strike a balance, meaning the story has to point forward not backwards like so many resumes and CVs do.

The classic bio is often filled with a list of achievements, many of which occurred in the past. While experiences are important, the ability to transfer past history to present/future attitude is the key to effective change. Boards and hiring influencers want to know what you’re doing now and not only how it translates but also how it transfers with conviction. Far too few are willing to embrace “the translate and transfer” challenge largely out of fear of the unknown. Which, by the way, is completely normal. You’re human.

Here are five other obstacles to effective transition and proven ways to remove them:

1.) THE story. It’s not just about your own story although that’s important. It’s about how your story fits into a larger one. What does the business actually do that people buy? What makes it valuable? How did it perform before vs. now? How would you define your role in its success? Start with that line of questioning vs. the “I did this and I did that” bits and bytes mentality that far too often informs conversation about jobs and careers. Throw in some color that talks about how you overcame conflict, which is essential to any good drama much less one that glows about yourself.

2.) Extended self-introspection. We are our own worst enemy. While some reflection is necessary to manage change, extended navel gazing, isolation and lack of accountability can spell disaster. Unplug and get with some friends who aren’t afraid to share the truth in love. Hire pros if you’re running low on good friends. Where do they see you going or planting? Better yet, what opportunities could be really energizing?

3.) Lack of incentive. This is what ultimately destroys the value of a new narrative before it can ever take hold. The greatest incentive is always the coveted top prize: New job, position of influence, higher rank, more money, etc. Yet often this short-term mindset can lead to disappointment when results aren’t achieved immediately by pushing the Uber button. The average transition can range between 12-18 months in a good cycle and longer in a bad cycle. For those who have been protected from the economic ups and downs over the past five years, there have probably been at least 10 different cycles within that stretch. Do your own math and adjust course accordingly. Here’s a creative way forward on incentive: For every significant step you take, donate $100 to your favorite charity or cause (church plates count, too.) Proper margin always helps.

4.) False narratives. We all have stories and experiences from our past that don’t align with where we are now. Or where we want to be. The best way to correct a false narrative is to carve out a new one preferably with folks who can see you in a new light. If you’re not in position to do so, then start moving that way.

5.) Destiny’s myth. Accept fact that you don’t control the outcome, only the inputs. The single biggest myth is that we control our own destiny. With respect to Ayn Rand and Ralph Waldo Emerson, that’s simply not true and never has been. Turn the reality shows and social streaming off. This one is called real life. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” — famous Chinese philosopher.

Happy transitioning. Please consider sending friends and colleagues this way should they need help rebranding a new narrative (translation: Telling a new story.) Thank you,

Jeremy C. Garlington
Point of View LLC
4060 Peachtree Rd./Suite D-#117
Atlanta, GA, 30319
Phone: 404-606-0637
Web site: www.pointofviewllc.com
TGR web log:  www.povblogger.blogspot.com