Discussion questions and business assignments

633 Days Inside by Greg Lindberg


Discussion questions and business assignments

Once a leader decides they have found the truth, the decline begins.


What are management’s responsibilities in today’s world?

Managers who excel in today’s environment have particular personality characteristics such that they thrive on constant challenges and surprises. These personality types tend to be low in patience, high in preference for autonomy, and low to moderate preference for detail orientation. When they possess these personality traits, managers are often excited by new challenges and are often able to handle uncertainty without becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. Likewise, a high autonomy preference is associated with high aggression such that these personality types seek psychological rewards from “winning” and overcoming the challenges that today’s rapid-paced management environment presents. Enjoying challenges and welcoming adversity is perhaps the most important skill set for a leader in today’s environment.

High aggression or high autonomy leaders are often more resilient as well, which is another key criterion for a successful manager in today’s environment. Resilience allows leaders to find advantage and opportunity in adversity as they adapt to challenging market dynamics, consumer behavior, government regulation, political situations, technology changes, and competitor dynamics. The best “change leaders” enjoy the process so much that when they succeed—and even if they fail—they come back again and again for the next challenge. These types of leaders don’t burn
out because climbing mountains is what they love to do.


Why do some companies have long-term leadership?

There are numerous factors that account for why some companies have a lot of CEO turnover and management turnover, whereas other companies have long-tenured CEOs and management:

  1. Type of shareholder. Often, privately held companies with low leverage are family-owned and take a much longer, often generational view on their business. Contrast this with public companies with an activist shareholder who pushes for management change. Sometimes for the short-term gain of boosting the stock price or selling off key assets (e.g., the Carl Icahn or Bill Ackman model).
  2. Intentionality of the culture in the business. Was the business created from day one with a specific, unique culture that has been written down and taught to employees and managers? This intentional culture and values system in an organization allows the organization to quickly eject those that don’t fit into the culture and thus the remaining employees tend to stay longer. Likewise, employees who are trained in this intentional culture tend to stay with the company longer, particularly if the culture is highly unique. The more unique the culture, the more tenured the management and employees will be. This is simply because when someone has worked at a business for 10 years and has mastered a very unique culture at this business, moving to a new business with a markedly different culture and value system will seem entirely foreign somewhat like moving to a foreign country and having to learn to speak a foreign language.
  3. Ability of the shareholders and Board of Directors to empower ownership thinking at all levels of the organization, from the CEO to the front line managers. The more freedom leaders have, the more accountability they will bring to the organization. By maximizing autonomy for the organization’s leaders, the shareholders encourage leaders to think and act like owners. Once leaders begin thinking and acting like an owner, they are fully accountable for the results of the organization. They don’t blame others for failures, and they take responsibility for outcomes. Most successful leaders have a high preference for autonomy. This “empowerment by autonomy” type of shareholder interaction with management often leads to high job satisfaction for those managers. This high satisfaction then tends to promote management longevity because it satisfies a core human need for self-actualization.


Can you learn people skills?

People skills can absolutely be learned. The art of leadership is hiring people who complement your strengths and offset your weaknesses. The right leader, with the night amount of humility, self-awareness and emotional fortitude, will realize quickly where new hires need to be made. Perhaps the leader is very low social. So, the leader hires a high social number two. Perhaps the leader is a philosopher type who does not find enjoyment in day-to-day operations. The leader hires an aggressive “get it done” type as their number two. Or perhaps the leader comes to the realization that coaching and motivation is not their strength. They might decide to hire a strong number two for exactly this role. The best leaders will apply this same process to everyone on their team to ensure that the right diversity of talent and execution ability is present, regardless of the leader’s own innate people skills.

The possibilities for team configuration are endless, and they only depend on the open-mindedness of the leader to get out of their comfort zone, to bring in people that are fundamentally different than they are. In order to accomplish this, the leader must also be fully immune to the fear of competition from followers. If they fear hiring the right people to build a strong team, they will fail. If they have the right amount of humility and true self-awareness of their own personality type, strengths, and weaknesses, then anyone can learn to be a great people person.


Why have a “boss-less” organization?

The “boss-less” organization is here to stay and will become ever more prevalent since it offers the most self-actualization and empowerment to the people in the organization. The trend toward boss-less organizations is driven by rapid technology changes that allow groups of people to work together with clear accountability for results for each team member. Progress on various tasks is readily apparent to all team members using today’s collaborative technology.

The amount of freedom you permit to your employees will determine how accountable they are for upholding their commitment to you.

The tribes that followed the leader who was the closest to reality survived. Those that didn’t perished.

This enforces the peer review effect whereby peers hold each other accountable and motivate those who may not be fully accountable on their own. Blockchain applications, a number of which are, by definition, “distributed autonomous organizations” are a good example of this. There is no “one boss” of Ethereum, Cardano, or Solana, or any of the blockchains that are emerging as platforms for distributed autonomous applications and decentralized exchanges. Governments struggle to regulate blockchain precisely because there is often no one central authority. However, blockchains are booming. They offer more freedom and empowerment to individuals. Rigid top-down hierarchies that we see today in Google, Facebook, and Amazon face significant risk of disruption from the “distributed, autonomous, encrypted, decentralized, and tokenized” blockchains that empower individuals by allowing them to profit from data activities versus give up most of that profit to a central authority. All of this means the “boss-less” organization is going to thrive and leaders must learn to adapt.

Perhaps the most important skill for a leader in the boss-less world is vision and staying close to reality. In any group of human beings, the leader in the group is the person closest to reality. This is a survival mechanism that we humans developed many tens of thousands of years ago when we operated in small hunting tribes and had to decide who to follow. The tribes that followed the leader who was the closest to reality survived. Those that didn’t perished. This implies that in a boss-less organization, different team members will become leaders, depending on who is the closest to  reality in any given situation.


What is the “Labor-Waste” elimination system under the “Scientific Management” school of thought?

Any management philosophy in today’s world that attempts to treat highly diverse groups of individuals as the same and does not appreciate them as human beings in their own context is bound to fail. The best ideas and suggestions come from empowered front line team members who are the closest to the customer. Enlightened leaders will understand that the person with the best information is the leader on any given topic, and often that person is the frontline leader. Requiring standard methods at the expense of individual creativity can stifle innovation.

For some businesses, particularly those involved with physical assets, control of assets in some fashion is critical and scientific management can assist in training workers on standardized methods of control. For example, UPS has billions of dollars of machinery that moves every day and is highly dangerous if moved in the wrong direction: think airplanes, trucks and forklifts being driven in the wrong direction. People will get hurt. Contrast this with a software start-up where scientific management would kill the ethos and creativity of the company. Perhaps UPS will evolve its system over time to be more of a coaching system to individuals so they can develop their own unique strengths.


Are you studying the future first?

A manager’s success is directly related to the distance into the future that the manager can anticipate events, develop a vision, and empower their team to act in concert with that vision on a day to-day basis. Studying the future is by far the most important role for a truly visionary leader. Studying the present is second, and studying the past should come last. The more business leaders study the past, the more likely they are to become mired in old business models, old ways of thinking and old habits.

A “re-evaluation of all values” is often necessary for a leader and their organization to survive rapid changes in technology, politics, regulation, climate, competition, levels of demand, and consumer tastes. Such a re-evaluation will certainly take into account all the facts from the past and present but, most importantly, it will be grounded in a clear view of future developments in their technology, cultural, consumer, political, and regulatory environment.


Are you managing your people or your technology?

As organizations evolve in today’s market, they are using more and more technology. However, that technology is becoming easier to use, easier to manage and far more seamless to integrate into an organization. Think about the ease of use of an iPhone versus a Blackberry. Today’s cloudbased applications require little technology talent on the part of the organization that uses them. They are intentionally designed to empower the human side of the organization. As organizations shift more towards “boss-less” organizations, communication technology is critical to empower teams to hold each other accountable.

Yes, major technology decisions and in-house technology talent will always be important, particularly in the area of IT security. Likewise, technology talent will always be important for leaders to possess so that they can understand the technology trends that are impacting their business. A leader who is client-server focused, for example, will have already likely missed the transition to cloud technologies and may be entirely clueless on blockchain technologies which will disrupt the cloud.


Should leaders fire a top-performer who doesn’t adhere to the values of the organization?

Yes. It’s always the right decision to fire an employee—regardless of their level of performance—if they don’t fit the values and culture of an organization. For example, a high performing employee may show disrespect for employees. In today’s environment, this disrespect could very easily create far more liability for the company than any profits this “high-performing” employee produces. Someone who disrespects other people may also be prone to sexual harassment or other violations of various labor laws that could create liability for the company and drive away employees.

The current $3.5 trillion spending bill in Congress would also make directors and managers personally liable for violations of labor laws and proposes fines that could be very substantial if a manager fails to correct a persistently abusive employee situation. Fundamentally, a company’s values system are only values if adherence to them is required. Values are nothing more than the behavior that is observed. Once you have an “exception to the values” practice, then the values become like Swiss cheese and stop meaning anything. A political environment develops where certain “friends of the boss” have special “privileges” in that they can routinely violate the company’s values with impunity. This will not produce a healthy, well-functioning corporate environment. It will produce a highly politicized and ineffective work environment.


How can leaders help their employees succeed so that they work harder?

The best thing a leader can do to motivate their employees is to help them succeed in their career. This means subordinating the leader’s own ego and needs to the needs of the employee to receive the individualized coaching that will help the employee succeed. Every employee requires something different and, by giving this kind of individual one-on-one treatment to the employee, the leader will help the employee achieve greater career success.

The effective leader will also supplement their own leadership with leadership coaching from third parties, leadership training, and other career development tools that can help each of their employees succeed on their own individually chosen career path. The leader can also give the employee autonomy with a new project or task that can help the employee build confidence to move forward in their career. A leader who constantly takes from an employee by not appreciating the employee’s need for a successful career will find both their employee’s career and their own organization suffering. Managing employees requires nurturing and care over a long period of time. A leader who carelessly disregards the needs of an employee for respect and individual attention can lead to even the most loyal employees looking for a position elsewhere.


What are some examples of transformational, transactional, and charismatic leadership?

Transformational leaders have the talent of being able to both create a long-term vision for the organization years, if not decades, into the future, while at the same time motivating team members to act in concert with that vision on a day-to-day basis. The longer the time span of the leader’s vision that inspires the team to day-to-day action in concert with that vision, the more effective the leader will be. Given today’s fast pace of change in environmental, social, technological, political, and regulatory environments, transformational leadership is required for any organization to be successful long-term. Some industries such as retail have been more rapidly transformed by technology than other industries and these require particularly transformational leadership.

Wal-Mart and Target have invested deeply in transformational e-commerce leadership and have seen their investments pay off with both retailers having fast-growing online businesses. Sears and Kmart took a different approach and did not invest in transformational e-commerce leadership, and they found themselves in bankruptcy.

Sometimes the company is in a short-term turnaround situation where transactional leadership is required instead of transformational leadership. For example, the cruise industry has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The successful cruise industry leaders were, by necessity, very transactionally focused on executing key financing priorities to provide sufficient liquidity for these businesses to survive the pandemic. In other cases, charismatic leadership is the most important leadership skill, particularly when the vision is clearly established, and the team requires motivation to “step up” to the task ahead of them. A charismatic leader can help the team climb a mountain that they did not think they could climb. Start-up leaders might fall into this category and use their charisma to help their team overcome the fear, uncertainty and doubt that are common in start-up situations. Start-up leaders might require charisma particularly when the vision for the new product or service is clear and the question is simply, can we build this product?

In summary, transformational leaders bring about innovation and change, and they challenge people to look at old problems in new ways. Transaction leaders clarify the role and task requirements, create structure, and provide rewards. Charismatic leaders inspire people to do more than they thought they could do.


How can you empower followers?

Perhaps more attention is given to leadership than followership in management training and education because it’s assumed that people want to strive to be leaders. Yet organizations consist mostly of team members and individual contributors, and the most effective organizations find ways to empower everyone on the team. For example, a highly effective organizational culture focuses on the value of team members by empowering followers to pursue their own critical thinking. The best cultures give everyone a chance to lead when they are the person in the room who is closest to reality. Anyone, regardless of rank, can be a leader if they are the person with the right answer for the leadership question or the right behavior of the leadership situation. A non-autocratic, non hierarchical culture where followers are encouraged to speak up and challenge the status quo is critical for this type of “follower leadership” to develop.

In essence, an effective follower has the same traits as an effective leader: facing the brutal facts, close to reality, challenging and probing, contributing, and staying silent as necessary. In fact, being a good follower is a critical talent to learn before someone can be a good leader. One cannot command without first learning the discipline of how to obey. The prison experience is an excellent school in how to obey the hundreds of different rules we prisoners follow every day.

Learning how to obey all of the numerous and unforgiving rules of Federal Prison Camp Montgomery will make me a better commander and leader when I am “back on the street.”


What type of leadership do flat organizations require to thrive?

Leadership in today’s flatter organizations is even more important than in hierarchical organizations, especially if you define leadership as a leader’s self-awareness of which of their traits is a strength and which is a weakness in that organization. A flatter organization will require the leader to adapt to numerous leadership styles depending on the wider variety of team members who report to the leader. Some of these team members may require direct commands and direction, whereas others may require an entirely hands off, “check in with me once a year,” approach.

The leader must have the self awareness and emotional fortitude to manage across that entire spectrum. This diversity of management approache requires strict discipline on the part of the leader to conform their management style to the needs of the follower vs. their own egotistical needs. This is servant leadership at its best in terms of subordinating your ego to the ego needs of your team members.


How can leaders become better communicators?

A training program to become a better communicator might include the following components:

  1. Susan Scott’s book Fierce Conversations. This book provides an extensive discussion on how the best cultures are very close to reality and provide numerous suggestions for ways managers can improve their ability to get the “elephants in the room” on the table for discussion. In a poorly functioning corporate culture, the “elephants in the room” are never discussed in meetings and are left for side conversations and gossip. A strong leader will address these matters squarely and publicly if needed to eliminate gossip and provide direction for the entire team, even if the message is one that people don’t want to hear.
  2. A meeting code that the manager can use for meetings. Some items on that code might be that everyone is given a chance to speak up. “We face the brutal facts without fear. We discuss the elephants in the room that people are afraid to talk about. If you don’t participate, then why are you here? The leader in the room is the person closest to reality”…etc.
  3. Public speaking training. Sometimes new managers may struggle with speaking before large groups. Training in this can improve presentation skills dramatically.


Who needs to know what about strategic plans?

Does a minimum wage employee in the janitorial department at a hospital really need to understand the strategic plan for the hospital? Absolutely. Never underestimate the importance of front-line workers in helping organizations achieve their strategic plans. Management hubris often leads top-level executives to pay little or no attention to the feedback and ideas of front-line employees, particularly minimum wage employees such as the cleaning staff. This is always a mistake. A person’s wage level does not determine the level of their ability to contribute to the organization.

For example, in today’s COVID-19 era, if the front-line cleaning staff is not aware of the strategic plans of the hospital, the cleaning staff may not take the additional steps necessary to prevent the spread of COVID in the facility. This could then create a cascade of negative effects that can impact the strategic plan of the hospital. Perhaps the cleaning staff, unaware of the strategic plans, fails to take some action that then leads to a hospital-acquired COVID-19 infection, which then generates negative publicity for the hospital.

Another example: Currently, I am employed as janitor in the Education Department at Federal Prison Camp Montgomery, earning a minimum wage of around 30 cents per hour. As a minimum wage front-line employee, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be included in any strategic plans and decisions of the prison Education Department. For example, the head of the department told me a few months ago that there was an important inspection coming up in November of this year and that she wanted to make sure the education building was extra clean ahead of the inspection. Knowing this strategic information, I suggested a fresh coat of paint on the interior walls of the department would go a long way to improving the overall appearance of the department. My supervisor agreed with this suggestion and proceeded to paint the interior walls of the building. In sum: frontline workers can have a direct and important impact on helping any organization achieve their strategic goals and, as such, they should be included in all communications on strategic plans.

Getting the right people on your bus is 90% of success.


How do organizations hire the right people?

Getting the right people on your bus is 90% of success.

Human Resource Management (HRM) is the single most important strategic factor in driving organizational performance, especially in today’s environment of rapid changes in technology, politics, regulation, social 

preferences, and consumer behaviors. The people in an organization are the most important determinant in the success or failure of that organization to continuously adapt to these rapid changes. An organization that can recruit and retain talent who can lead the organization through rapid transformation into new products, new services, and new vertical industries entirely can survive and thrive in the long run. An organization that fails to recruit and retain this talent won’t make it.


What’s the top characteristic or talent leaders should have?

Self-awareness is one of the most critical talents a leader can have for a number of reasons. First, self-awareness allows the leader to determine, with a high degree of honesty, their own strengths and weaknesses. This, in turn, allows the leader to hire the right team members who complement those strengths and weaknesses. If the leader is sufficiently self-aware that they lack detail orientation, for example, they can choose to hire a very detailed number two on their team who can help them keep track of the various moving parts of the business. If the leader is self-aware of their low preference for social interaction, they can hire a team member with a high social preference to accommodate for this weakness.

Self-awareness is also critical in identifying your own feelings in various situations, and thus a self-aware individual is able to manage those feelings instead of having their feelings manage them. A simple example is a leader who is very aware of situations that make them angry, and they use this self-awareness to remove themselves quickly from those situations so that their anger does not lead them to make an emotional decision that could be damaging to their overall objectives.


How can new managers build trust with their team?

A new manager can quickly build trust with subordinates by opening up and being vulnerable. For example, the manager could hand out all their psychological profile results to team members and invite the team members to discuss the manager’s strengths and weaknesses. This would open up the discussion to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and could go a long way to establishing trust with subordinates.

When I was in a direct leadership role, I would hand out, an entire package of my psychological test results including Meyers-Briggs, Culture Index, and 360 Degree survey results from various leadership development programs, to my team members. One of the first things I will do when I am released from prison is to attend the Center for Creative Leadership’s Leadership at the Peak program. I attended this program 15 years ago and it provided valuable feedback to me from my team members and led to numerous new areas for improvement in my behavior. Attending such a program and being vulnerable by sharing that feedback with my team members will enhance the trust that I have built with the Global Growth team members.


What’s the best way to measure employee success?

Humans must have some measurement of their progress in life to remain motivated. Trying to remain motivated at any work or personal pursuit is like bowling without seeing the pins. It won’t be satisfying for very long. On a psychological level, the human brain releases endorphins and dopamine when a task is accomplished. I find myself, for example, looking forward to the psychological reward of checking items off my to-do list. This is because my brain has become accustomed to the shot of neurohormones that are released when I accomplish something on that list. So, in a very real way, giving team members regular rewards and appreciation as evidence of their progress towards their goals becomes a psychologically necessary part of their brain chemistry. Perhaps some people even become addicted to these rewards.

… on a quantum level reality does not exist unless it’s measured.

On a deeper, quantum physics level, all reality exists in the superposition and classical reality is only “created” when the wavelength of the superposition is collapsed through observation and measurement. So, quite literally, on a quantum level reality does not exist unless it’s measured. If there is no measurement and no observation of a specific event then, from the classical reality perspective of others, that action does not exist. Quantum mechanics also stipulates that certain quantum particles can be “paired,” while others are not paired. This pairing of particles was called “spooky action at a distance” by Einstein; however, it’s not all that spooky in .

that quantum computers are based on the quantum pairing of photons. It’s entirely possible that the unrecognized, unobserved, and unmeasured team member has far fewer photon pairings on a quantum level than the team member who is well-recognized, well-observed, and well-measured.

Management science (unlike computer science) has not yet crossed over into the field of quantum mechanics. But it’s possible that, when it does, managers will realize that their contagious enthusiasm and motivational communication and appreciation for their team members is creating a pairing of quantum particles that is a much deeper linkage than the psychological linkages of classical reality.


How can organizations help employees find pleasure in their work?

It is absolutely a leader’s responsibility to help people find all three pathways to happiness in their work: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Humans spend far too much time “working” to not find al l three components of happiness in their work. My father gave my one piece of career advice: do what you love and you will never work a day in your life. He was an airline pilot and he often said that he would “fly for free.” In fact, after he retired, he purchased a small airplane and did exactly that.

The Global Growth business has always been a labor of love for me, and I have never seen anything that I do related to Global Growth as work. This created stress from my failed marriage when my wife accused me of loving my business more than I loved her. In hindsight, there was likely some truth to her comment. For the three decades of building my business, I found great pleasure in learning and growing intellectually as the business grew, and great engagement and meaning in what we were able to accomplish.

As a leader, I want to bring this same joy and empowerment to everyone who works for Global Growth. The key for me in helping others find their three pathways of happiness at Global Growth is encouraging relentless personal growth The never-ending process of learning creates pleasure through increased neural connections in the cerebral cortex as well as through releases of endorphins and dopamine from accomplishing various tasks. Likewise, all of our companies deliver Global Good on their respective industries, which gives our work meaning.


How can managers motivate employees?

Herzberg’s two factor theory of motivation postulates that there are two factors in a person’s motivation: those factors that motivate the person and those factors that de-motivate the person. In my experience, this theory is precisely correct, and it has the added benefit of a loving manager to hire self-motivated people so that they only have to worry about removing the demotivators. If self-motivated people are placed in an environment where they have sufficient responsibility and authority that they can drive their own achievement and personal growth, then they do not require recognition from their superiors or other motivating influences from the organization. What they require instead is that the organization remove the “areas of dissatisfaction,” as Herzberg calls them: poor working conditions, company bureaucracy, micromanaging supervisors, and poor company culture.

The owners of Zimmerman’s Community of Businesses appear to have adopted this approach using the Herzberg theory to motivate their team members. They removed bureaucracy. They gave people opportunities to grow on a professional basis. They encouraged people to take significant responsibility, including giving one employee the role of leading a start-up.


What are the most common ways your career can be derailed?

1. Associating with the wrong people and letting the wrong people into your life.
2. Lack of humility to learn.
3. Becoming enamored with being the boss and forgetting you got here by being a student.
4. Failing to learn from everyone you meet.
5. Fear of learning new morals, new cultures, and new technologies.
6. Fear to expand beyond your comfort zone.
7. Inability to launch visionary new initiatives to rejuvenate your business or organization.
8. Becoming satisfied and content with the existing status quo.
9. Narrow-minded thinking about global talent, offshoring & multi-sharing.
10. Fear of losing your position.
11. Untrustworthiness; playing politics.
12. Failure to read broadly all manner of books, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and research reports to keep your knowledge fresh.
13. Failure to demand “A players” in every seat on your bus.
14. Lack of self-awareness.
15. Inability to see one’s weaknesses and inability to hire the right people to compensate for those weaknesses.
16. Failure to appreciate the environmental improvement.
17. Making your organization all about you instead of all about your team and your customers.
18. Impatience.
19. Inability to master finance and capital markets.
20. Taking credit instead of giving credit to your team.


What is the single most important factor distinguishing a successful leader?

Your Timespan of Management

The caliber of your leadership is directly proportionate to the distance in the future you can plan your actions and act consistently in the present with those plans.

Perhaps the single most important distinguishing factor for a successful leader is how far they can extend their vision into the future while, at the same time, acting today with relentless discipline toward that vision. The length of time that you can stretch your discipline over is directly proportional to your talent as a leader. Intentional fasting is a simple example. You are the leader of 37 trillion cells in your body and even more tens of trillions of bacteria and microbes that live inside you and are critical to sustaining life. This community of hundreds of trillions of individual units has only one leader that is responsible for the life and death of the entire community. And that is you. Intermittent fasting has been shown by dozens of highly credible medical studies to turn on autopilot, which is the body’s built-in repair mechanism. This, in turn, removes the “junk” that accumulates in cells from the cells to avoid cellular breakdown and malfunction. Autophagy is like changing the oil on your car. It is a necessary maintenance routine. Over years and decades, regular maintenance will have a dramatic impact on any system. The challenge with intermittent fasting is the extraordinary daily discipline it requires. So, do you have the type of management to lead your body’s hundreds of trillions of individual units to a longer life decades from now with specific disciplined action today? To be a powerful leader, you will have to master extraordinary discipline and focus on a daily and hourly basis that drives towards your life vision. Act today and every day in harmony with where you want your company and life to be in 50 years. If you think and act for results and rewards today, you are not a leader. There is nothing wrong with not being a leader, as long as you recognize your place on the bus. For tens of thousands of years, we humans were hunter-gatherers, and the leader was the person who could guide the tribe in concert with the long-term survival of everyone in the tribe. They were the most disciplined and the closest to reality with their day-to-day actions to carry out a long-term goal of survival.