• Call Us (734) 692-0544

Category Archives: Leadership Development

Listen to What’s Coming Out of Your Horn

I learned many life lessons from my dad. At the time I learned them, they helped me on a certain level. As I’ve lived my life, I have come to appreciate the depth and fullness, yet also the simplicity, of what he taught me. Here is just one example.

One day I was practicing my clarinet, working on a particularly difficult passage in preparation for my high school soloist competition.

“Hey Joe! Listen to what’s coming out of the end of your horn,” my Dad yelled down the stairs.

Lost in my efforts to learn and perfect the proper fingering and phrasing of the passage, I had stopped paying attention to the sound that I was creating.

Read more »

The Best Press Secretary of Modern Times?

Success Strategy # 11: Openly and sincerely compliment that which you admire and respect.

Last week I had the chance to meet Mike McCurry, the former Press Secretary for Bill Clinton’s administration. It was nice to be able to tell him in person what I’ve told hundreds of people and leaders that I’ve worked with over the years.

What did I tell him? That he was the ultimate example of grace under pressure during the Lewinsky scandal, and is probably the best press secretary of modern times.

Never miss a chance to openly and sincerely compliment that which you admire and respect in others.

You can download all the Caruso Success Strategies here.

A Presidential Speech to a Nation Divided

On this President’s Day, let’s take a minute to reflect on the words of a President who knew how important it was not to divide, but to unite this country. Here are the words of the Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Read more »

Real-time Leadership Lessons

So the Congressional supercommittee fails to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. You heard it here first. Stay tuned for more predictions we don’t want to come true, but will. How do we know? Because we understand that people’s natures and cultures drive their behaviors more than their desires to have what is actually good for them

Here’s the deal—we all lie to ourselves about ourselves. We tell ourselves stories that aren’t true and we rationalize and justify things that happen so they validate how we think.In some ways it is part of the human experience. Sometimes we are in denial of certain realities. Sometimes we just have blind spots that we can’t see no matter how hard we try.

The essence of our work here at Caruso Leadership, and where we have the biggest impact, is to help leaders with denial and blind spots—whether it’s on their part, the part of their leadership team, their organization, or even their target market.

Read more »

Honoring Veterans Day and a bit of history

Two weeks ago, while in London, I bought and wore a paper poppy as a donation to the Royal British Legion in commemoration of their version of Veteran’s Day.

Today, I plan on making the same gesture stateside. A policy of my business is to donate my time and services to those who serve education and our military.  We do our best to do so, as often as we can.

There are three things that keep a sovereign nation powerful and sustainable: Military, Education and Money. The sad fact on this Veteran’s Day is that we are failing in two of the three, and due to a foolish political negotiation that created the silly notion of a super-committee who were doomed to fail from their inception, we are about to decimate the third.

Read more »

Leaders, Wisdom of the Masses, and the US Economy

Common sense isn’t. Nor is conventional wisdom.

Yet political leaders and the media continue to perpetuate the fallacy that consensus must be more reasonable and more right simply because most people seem to think it so.

In spite of the recent trend of business books touting the “wisdom of the masses,” the fact is that by and large, groups just aren’t that smart. While, by definition, they are good at determining what is popular, they are usually terrible at determining the best way to define something, let alone decide the wisest course of action.

Crowds and groups can create consensus just fine. But consensus is usually reached via compromise, and compromise is rarely the path to a great or courageous decision.  Compromise is merely one way for a group of people to reach a decision. Here’s the deal about compromise: Once a group decides that compromise is the goal, they are actually more focused on assuaging the emotions of the moment than they are on finding the best solutions to the problems.

Read more »

Wisdom of the Masses

“I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” — Thomas Carlyle

Here’s some contrary thinking for those so inclined… I firmly believe that future historians will look back at our current culture and blame our belief in what we currently call, “the wisdom of the masses,” as one of the reasons for the demise of our culture.

Leaders take note. Our current tendency to hold popular opinion as a measure of veracity flies in the face of all we know about history. Past cultures embraced the wisdom of the masses when it came to things like slavery and witchcraft.

Never before have I seen so many intelligent business leaders use the term, “wisdom of the masses,” as a foundational principle for running their businesses. Before I offend the sensibilities of any readers—assuming I haven’t already—let me be clear about why the wisdom of the masses can work for some business plans yet has absolutely no place in others.

Read more »

The Dangers of Groupthink (Betting on the Favorite)

Animal Kingdom is the current 2:1 favorite for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. So why not bet $100 if I can double my money and go with the favorite? At horse race tracks, the favorite wins fewer than 30% of the time. But that doesn’t stop millions from plunking their money down. The media drives the story of “the favorite”, we buy in, literally, and expect Animal Kingdom to win, or perhaps, are disappointed when Animal Kingdom does not in fact win. (Multiply this effect when the possibility of a Triple Crown winner drives the storyline, which is not the case this year).

Read more »

The Metaphor in Chief

In yesterday’s blog I wrote about the importance of metaphor in shaping how people think of ideas. I also predicted that our President would make use of the power of metaphor in his speech last night. This of course was an easy bet. Most leaders understand the power of metaphor and use it in nearly every speech.

What I didn’t mention was that the news media will always key in more on the metaphor than on the content of the speech. They make for good sound bytes. Think of Reagan’s, “Shiny City on a Hill.” Sure enough the media did just that. Here’s a photo of today’s Wall Street Journal.

The pulled quote reads, “If we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of
Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

Read more »

Metaphors Matter

Metaphors Matter. This was the headline of a small but significant report recently published in the Wall Street Journal.

The article focuses on a Stanford University study that demonstrates the power of metaphor in shaping thought in communication.  The study was recently cited in a new book entitled, “Metaphors We Think With:  The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning,” by Paul H. Thibodeau and Lera Boroditsky.

The study queried students. They were asked to read two reports about a crime in a particular city and recommend solutions. In the first report, crime was described as a, “wild beast preying on the city.”  The second report was identical except that it began with a different metaphor.  It described crime as a, “virus infecting the city.”

Read more »