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The PEP (Procative, Efficient & Persistent) Talk

Dr. Steven Neil Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance
Dr. Steven Neil Kaplan

In 2008 I  celebrated Father’s Day by attending the convocation ceremonies at the University of Chicago Graduate Business School.  My son  received his MBA. The faculty speaker at the ceremony was Steven Neil Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance.

Dr. Kaplan’s research previously has focused on private equity and entrepreneurial finance, corporate governance and finance and mergers and acquisitions. Recently he studied personality traits of CEO that produced the most significant results for their companies.

Previous studies by authors such as Jim Collins (Good to Great and Built to Last) have found character traits that have been universal in good leaders.  Character traits such as humility, team players, good listeners and the ability of hire the “right” people, are essentail in transforming companies. Coolins also found that even with these traits some leaders did not achieve the same results.

PEP (Proactive, Efficient & Persistent)

Dr. Kaplan’s research revealed three additional traits that seemed to be pivotal producing success. These character traits are proactive, efficient and persistent, “PEP.” Dr. Kaplan’s research confirmed that these three characteristics were universal in leaders who were able to make a difference. Dr. Kaplan encouraged the graduates to approach their business careers with “PEP.”

As I listened to Dr. Kaplan, I had to agree. In my own personal journey, I find that when I am proactive (Make the choice, Cross the wake, Live your dreams!) in approaching a challenge, attack it in an efficient manner and follow through with persistence to the end, my results are stellar but when I sit back and wait, fail to get to the heart of the matter efficiently or acquiesce to the pressure of those around me, my result are less than adequate. My most remarkable successes have been directly related to my level of “PEP.”  To get a little more “PEP” in your group give me a call.

 

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Winning the Race

Leadership can be a lonely road. Many times we get discouraged when the results aren’t as timely or notable as we had hoped. But most of us will be remember for how we ran not for winning the race.  True leaders continue to run long after less dedicated runner fade and quit.  And many times  the winner of the race will not necessarily be the one who crosses the finish line first.

John Stephen Akhwari enters the stadium
John Stephen Akhwari

I recall one such winner from the Mexico City Olympic Summer Games of 1968. Out of the cold darkness he came.  John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania entered at the far end of the stadium, pain hobbling his every step, his leg bloody and bandaged. The winner of the marathon had been declared over an hour earlier. Only a few spectators remained. But the lone runner pressed on.

While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He had not trained at such an altitude back in his country. At the 19 kilometer point during the 42 km race, there was jockeying for position between some runners and he was hit. He fell badly wounding his knee and dislocated that joint plus his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running,

He finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27.   When he entered the stadium only a few thousand people remained.   A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.

As he crossed the finish line, the small crowd roared out its appreciation. Afterward, a reporter asked the runner why he had not retired from the race, since he had no chance of winning. He seemed confused by the question. Finally, he answered: “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Winning the race…………..

In my mind Akhawri is a winner.   Many times winning doesn’t mean crossing the finish line first by having the tenacity to finish in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.  Winning at the leadership challenge is never easy.  While the end results of our leadership challenges may seem unremarkable there is a certain satisfaction that comes from completing plans. Little did that lonely run ever envision that forty years later his story would be retold.  So it is with our efforts.  We cannot know what long term effects they will have on those around us.  Let me inspire your team at your next staff meeting or conference.

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Use Your Keys

Keys are wonderful tools. We use them daily to unlock doors, start cars and figuratively speaking, to unlock opportunities.

Several years ago while vacationing in Orlando, I was returning to the condo after running some errands.  I had several items that I needed to take back to the room. Rather than make two trips, I grabbed them all.  My hands were full.  I still had the rental car keys and key fob in my hands as I juggled my cargo.  I boarded the elevator and as I went to push the button, I dropped the keys. I watched in horror as the keys tumbled end over end, landing four feet below at the bottom of the elevator shaft! Have you ever had one of those “This can’t be happening to me!” moments? This was mine!

The next day was spent not vacationing, but waiting for the elevator company to retrieve the keys.  I was reminded of my mistake and lack of judgement every time I used the elevator that day. There at the bottom of the shaft lay my keys, taunting me. 

Over the years when I reflect upon this experience, I am reminded of the usefulness of keys. The fact is that if we don’t or can’t use our keys, they are of little value.  Many times we fail to take our keys out of our pocket and simply put it in the lock.  Other times we have dropped our keys down the elevator shaft and they are unavailable for use. When I speak, my goal is to inspire the audience to use their keys to unlock the vast opportunities that lie ahead of all of us.  Let me inspire you to use your keys.  

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The Story Begins

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We had been married just two years, our oldest son was only six months old and I was just beginning my second year of dental school when my wife, Cindy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Forty-two years ago, treatment options were limited and she was told that she would probably live 20 years or less. But being young, that dire prognosis didn’t register so we went about living our lives confident in the rich promise of the future.

For 42 of the 44 years we have lived our lives together, MS has been a not-so-silent partner in our marriage. We could have made the decision to “just get by,” but instead we chose to just live our lives normally, as all of us do, perhaps a little more tenaciously than most. In doing so, we have managed to create a life beyond our expectations, one that has been remarkable under any circumstances.

Let me inspire your team to live their dreams!