Press

Forbes - How the DOMA Repeal Benefits Businesses

Great article in Forbes by Anna Secino: "How the DOMA Repeal Benefits Businesses." Wednesday's DOMA repeal eases corporations' ability to extend benefits to all employees and ensure a welcoming workplace. The repeal is likely to increase employee productivity and strengthen recruitment efforts by accepting all employees as they are. 

The Tipping Point for Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices like meditation have been in existence for thousands of years, but only now are they reaching the tipping point in the Western world. Today's pace and stress are so great that people are searching for new practices to find resilience in the midst of chaos, and mindfulness programs are helping them find better ways to live.

Mindfulness, the practice of self-observation without judgment, encompasses an array of activities in which we focus inward on our minds and our inner voices. New research studies are demonstrating conclusively that meditation and mindfulness are good for your health -- and for your soul. This is why each of us should consider balancing the fast-paced nature of our lives with individual practices that cultivate mindfulness.

Read full article on Huffington Post

Forbes - The Crucial Edge That Makes A Board Exceptional by Punit Renjen

Forbes - Online
The Crucial Edge That Makes A Board Exceptional
By Renjen, Punit
06/14/2013

Which of the following is the mark of a great board room, (a) an eyebrow raised, and then a hand, quickly followed by a challenging question, or (b) nodding heads and then smiles all around, quickly followed by the next item on the agenda? 

In exceptional boardrooms, the intellectual rigor generated by a challenging question is both an accepted norm and a precursor to reaching informed decisions. This is the crucial edge that sets apart boards that lead from boards that follow. Exceptional boards embrace creative tension fully and ensure its presence continually in engaging the management teams they govern. 

Creative tension is known by various names. Constructive discontent, respectful challenge, and “What if?” are just a few that describe its inquisitive and often skeptical nature. However, this key differentiator of exceptional boards is hardly meant to thwart management. Creative tension is constructive. Its purpose is to bring out the very best in management so that senior executives can generate the greatest value for shareholders, stakeholders, and society at large. 

Exceptional boards put creative tension into play many different ways: 

As brand guardians, for example, boards can initiate the debate on how short-term solutions could potentially impact their brands long-term. 

As risk and scenario planners, chairmen and directors can pose hypothetical situations that in today's fast-paced business environment can quickly become all too real. 

As succession stewards, boards can identify current leadership strengths that should be continued and new leadership attributes that should be sought. 

As bold strategists, boards can imagine the organization's vision on fast forward—and brainstorm with management about which actions will keep the trajectory of the organization straight and true beyond the horizon. 

Creative tension drives the journey. A director can begin that journey by asking a question that may defy convention or political correctness. I like inconvenient questions. They often lead to others and enable boards to use oversight and stewardship as catalysts for management's actions. 

The Power of Never, No, and Not Yet 

I grew up in India. From my childhood, I remember the great reverence that people held for our national hero, Mahatma Gandhi. He galvanized millions to march as one, disarmed the empire that had ruled his country for nearly a century, and enabled India to become a free and independent nation. 

As a board chairman years later, perhaps what I admire most about Gandhi is how this bespectacled, humble man of slight stature applied the enormous power of creative tension. Gandhi held no formal position of authority. Nor was there an organized army standing behind him. What he did have were his core beliefs and the audacity to speak truth to power. Gandhi knew that to remain silent would leave authority unchallenged and unchecked. He defied those who sought to silence him, by saying “never” and “no” countless times in a soft, calm voice—and with an iron will. He had to. His relationship with those who occupied his country was adversarial. 

Boards and management, however, have a decided advantage. They are on the same team in helping the enterprise excel. Boards foster creative tension through their responsibility to review and approve—or consider, table, or deny. When a board says “not yet” to a management proposal, the creative tension that results is intended not to undermine but to inspire. And if “not yet” or even an outright “no” escalates boardroom dialogue into full-throated debate, that's okay. Passion is good. Opposing views can collide, but they also can converge and yield exciting new ideas, especially when an organization's core beliefs unite everyone involved. 

How does management respond to creative tension? It depends on the executive. Exceptional leaders embrace it, whether they're in a conference room or the boardroom. Speaking of his C-suite experiences, former Medtronic Medtronic chairman and chief executive Bill George said, “Reward people who challenge you. I didn't promote people who didn't take me on.” Now a professor at Harvard Business School, he also supported that same attitude vigorously in Medtronic's boardroom. According to Mr. George, there were times when a single, compelling voice of dissent caused the board to reconsider and eventually pull back from a major decision. Otherwise, he recalls, those decisions would have probably been unanimous—and most likely disastrous. 

Good for the Gander 

Management shouldn't be the only recipient of creative tension. Board members can enrich their own discussions by challenging one another, including their chairman, and not just during executive sessions. Such openness in front of management can actually deepen trust. It helps convey the message that creative tension is designed to elevate the entire team, not pull management down. 

History tells us that fomenting dissent can lead to a more perfect union. That was the message shared by the biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who chronicled how one of the greatest CEOs this country has ever seen stacked his boardroom. Instead of creating his own personal cheering section, Abraham Lincoln purposefully brought together a cabinet that included many former opponents who had run against him for the presidency, and who had railed against his viewpoints along the way. The advisers Lincoln assembled agreed with his ultimate goals of abolishing slavery and preserving the union. Yet he wanted the clash of opposing perspectives to fully inform his own views on how best to achieve that vision.

The success of Lincoln's team of rivals holds a lesson for boards everywhere, that it's better to have tough questions asked by directors in the boardroom than by consumers in the marketplace. 

Challenge, Verify, Trust 

The art of creative tension has many facets. At times, it can leave some wondering if it's worth the effort. Creative tension is not for directors who are quick to judge or slow to envision. It takes both time and imagination. Creative tension is not for directors who crave order. It can alter alignment and disrupt the status quo. Creative tension is an act of professional exertion for board members, one that requires the courage to challenge, the tact to verify, and the confidence to trust.

Penny George: What Is Integrative Medicine and Why Is It Critical to Today's Healthcare Discussion?

Great article in Huffington Post by my wife Penny George: why integrative medicine is key to solving our nation’s health problems, speaking today at U. Wisconsin conference w/ His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Richard Davidson, Dr. Dan Goleman, Don Berwick & Arianna Huffington. We’ll never get upstream on health issues until we look at the whole person – mind, body and spirit – and people begin to take responsibility for their health. Penny is doing great work to advance this cause.

Forbes: What Is Authentic Leadership?

In this Forbes Magazine article, Kevin Kruse succinctly defines what authentic leaders are and why they are so important to leading successful companies. Your feedback is welcome. 

“As a Servant Leader, You Can Change the World” Commencement Address

President Pribbenow, members of Augsburg College Board of Regents, and most importantly, 2013 graduates of this great institution, it is indeed a great honor and privilege for me to receive this treasured honorary degree and to have the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on your lives as servant leaders. 

Augsburg is a unique place that unites and inspires all of us with its sense of learning, stewardship, and servant leadership in a diverse student body in this urban setting, underpinned by the beliefs and values of Martin Luther. This morning I would like to speak with the graduating seniors as servant leaders who can change the world.

The world you’re entering is not the more predictable one of my growing up years. Rather, it is a volatile and unpredictable place, as we learned in Boston two weeks ago during the marathon and the events that followed. It is often chaotic and ambiguous, filled with conflicting forces pulling you in multiple directions. It is an easy world in which to criticize others and bemoan all that is wrong with it, as our media does so well. But taking that path will ultimately lead you into a cul-de-sac of despair and disappointment.

How can you navigate this world to find the joy, fulfillment, and significance that we aspire to? My only truth is that each of us must seek and find our True North – our beliefs, our values, and the principles by which we lead our lives – and then strive to stay true to who we are at our core in spite of all the pressures and seductions attempting to pull us off course. This is not an easy task as the external forces in our lives attempt to influence us As Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Each of us has a unique place in this world of seven billion people – and a calling to make a difference. How will you find your calling? What truly inspires you? I believe we are all called to lead, but how? It starts with your desire to serve others through your leadership. Would-be leaders who feel people are there to serve them are not leaders at all. This means knowing yourself and engaging deeply in the world to seek and find the purpose of your leadership. It means following your heart, not just your head, with a deep sense of passion, compassion, and courage – which are all matters of the heart.

My journey to leadership was not an easy path. As the only child of older parents, I heard from my father from a young age that he wanted me to make up for his failures to lead by heading a major company. He even named the companies: Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, IBM. At age eight, this was a pretty heavy trip to lay on a little kid. In junior high and high school I joined many organizations but was never asked to lead. Finally, my senior year I ran for senior class president only to lose by a margin of 2-1. It seemed clear my classmates didn’t appreciate what a great leader I was! To get a fresh start – or perhaps try to escape myself – I went 800 miles from home to Georgia Tech and repeated my mistakes all over again – six times I ran for office and lost all six! My scorecard: 0 for 7! It was pretty clear I was more of a loser than a leader. Then some seniors took me aside and gave me some blunt feedback: “Bill, no one is ever going to want to work with you, much less be led by you, because you’re moving so fast and so focused on yourself that you don’t have time for anyone else. It’s all about you.” That was like a blow to the solar plexus. .  . I realized they were right. After that, I worked hard to change and was successful in leading many organizations in college and grad school. But in the back of my mind was this calling to values-centered leader of a major company that served others. In my forties I was en route to the top of Honeywell when one day I looked in the mirror and saw a miserable person – me. I was in the midst of a crucible, but didn’t even realize it. Once again, I was striving so hard to get ahead that I was losing sight of my True North, focused more on becoming CEO that on serving others. That led me to make the most important career change of my life when I joined Medtronic and found a mission-driven, values-centered group of people dedicated to restoring people to full life and health. My thirteen years there were the fulfillment of my professional career, as we grew from restoring 300,000 people per year to 10 million new patients every year.

What is your calling? How will you use your unique gifts to serve others? I hope you won’t take twenty years to find it, but you might as you rub up against the real world and find your unique place. To find your calling, I encourage you to dive into the world and have as many experiences as you can in a short period of time. Don’t do what others say you “should” do, but rather what your heart calls you to do. Travel or live in countries that are completely foreign to your experience. Find a service opportunity that makes you uncomfortable because you’re learning from people whose lives are so different from you. Take risks, learn to fail and pick yourself up after failing to come back and do it better the next time. Keep a journal of your experiences and your feelings and return to it often to learn from your inner wisdom as well as the wisdom of others. Take a job doing what you love, not one that earns the most money or that your family wants you to take. Most important of all, follow your heart, not just your head.

By honoring your roots and diving into life’s experiences, you will gain a deeper awareness of who you are, your passions, your motivations, your unique strengths. When you come to a vocation or avocation that highly motivates you and you are really good at, you have found your “sweet spot” – that place where you can find joy, fulfillment, and success through serving others. And you will have found the purpose of your leadership, as I did at Medtronic, by striving to be a servant leader.

As a servant leader, you can change the world. Not the whole world of course, but the world in which you live, work, and interact with others. You can make this world a better place through your character and your leadership.  As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt the power of a small group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” You, your classmates and your generation are the servant leaders who will make this world a better place for everyone.

When you are on your deathbed and your favorite granddaughter asks you what you did to make a difference in the world, you’ll have a clear answer for her that becomes her inspiration to go forth into this world that is filled with so much chaos, volatility, uncertainty and ambiguity – yet has so much joy, awe, and beauty all around us and the opportunity to help others find it by serving them.

Let me close with a favorite quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, who said: I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know. The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

As you journey through life, may you find that true happiness and deep sense of fulfillment by serving others through your leadership. As a servant leader, you can indeed change the world in which you live.

Harvard Business School Launches New Executive Education Program On Building Global Leadership

BOSTON – May 6, 2013 – Harvard Business School (HBS) announces the launch of Leading a Global Enterprise (http://www.exed.hbs.edu/programs/gel/), a course scheduled to take place from July 28–August 2, 2013, on the HBS campus. The program is intended to teach business leaders how to operate effectively in a global corporate world and work seamlessly with multicultural organizations.

Leading a Global Enterprise was created in part to expand on HBS faculty member Bill George's principles of leaders following their authentic True North and cochair Krishna Palepu's deep insights into Winning in Emerging Markets. The program focuses on global intelligence, examining studies of companies like Siemens, Tata and IBM that have developed a strong presence within their global business networks. Participants will work closely with HBS leadership faculty to study how these companies have achieved worldwide success, understand the traits of prosperous global leaders and collaborate on ways to incorporate these skills in their own businesses.

“We developed this program to give established leaders an opportunity to step back and explore their development as global influencers in the business community, building the confidence they need to work with like-minded companies around the world,” said Professor Das Narayandas, Senior Associate Dean and Chair of Executive Education and Publishing.  “In an era of industrial globalization, it is crucial to understand how to successfully work with other cultures.”

Senior executives who lead established global businesses, marketing executives running global product and marketing groups, or senior regional executives and country heads preparing for greater global responsibilities are encouraged to take this course. Alongside Bill George, Krishna Palepu and other senior HBS faculty members, participants will follow an intensive one-week program, resulting in the development of a customized global plan.

Leading a Global Enterprise will provide valuable insights for global executives looking to increase their ability to lead global organizations,” said Bill George, Professor of Management Practice. “In order to win in competitive global markets, leaders need to expand their global intelligence, collaborate cross-culturally and align their people with common missions and values that lead to superior long-term performance.”

For more information, please contact:

Jim Aisner, jaisner@hbs.edu, +1-617-495-6157

Program Details:

Leading a Global Enterprise will run from July 28–August 2, 2013, and will take place at Harvard Business School.  Please visit http://www.exed.hbs.edu/programs/gel for complete curriculum details and to apply.

Leading a Global Enterprise

(July 28August 2, 2013, Harvard Business School)

Faculty:

William W. George, Professor of Management Practice

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business Administration

Nitin Nohria, George F. Baker Professor of Administration, Dean of the Faculty

Krishna G. Palepu, Professor of Business Administration, Senior Advisor to Harvard's President on Global Strategy

About Harvard Business School:

Harvard Business School Executive Education, a division of Harvard Business School, is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston, Massachusetts. HBS faculty develop and deliver over  80 open-enrollment Executive Education programs and more than 60 custom programs for leading organizations worldwide. Last year, more than 9,000 business executives attended programs in classrooms across the globe, including Boston, London, Mumbai, and Shanghai. With global research centers in seven key regions, HBS faculty continue to develop groundbreaking research, forge powerful alliances with global organizations, and fulfill the mission of educating leaders who shape the practice of business and innovation.

Best Buy Is Back!

Originally published in the StarTribune.  

What a difference a year makes!

A year ago Best Buy was headed for the unending troubles that have beset retailers like Sears, Kmart, Circuit City, J.C. Penney and Mervyn’s: storied histories followed by long-term decline of their brands.

Last April CEO Brian Dunn resigned over allegations about a relationship with an employee. However, Best Buy’s problems went beyond Dunn’s conduct. Its same-store sales were declining and its stock price had dropped from $45 to $25. Security analysts were predicting Best Buy’s ultimate demise, referring to it as “Amazon’s showroom.”

How did Best Buy get back on track while overcoming a rupture with founder Richard Schulze? Let’s look beyond the headlines at the leaders involved.

Dunn’s resignation was just the beginning of Best Buy’s troubles. In May, Schulze stepped aside as chair for failing to disclose allegations about Dunn, and later resigned from the board, threatening to take Best Buy private. Meanwhile, interim CEO Mike Mikan was preparing a plan to preserve Best Buy by closing stores and cutting costs. This upset Schulze as he feared “his baby” would be dismantled.

Schulze countered in August with a preliminary offer of $26-$28 per share to take Best Buy private and bring in his own management team led by former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson. Wall Street seemed skeptical whether he could raise $8 billion to $9 billion for the buyout. Meanwhile, Best Buy’s 170,000 employees, customers and shareholders wondered whether the retailer had a future.

Things changed dramatically in September when Carlson CEO Hubert Joly was elected CEO. Joly left the CEO post of Carlson to take on dual uncertainties of Best Buy’s ownership battle and unclear strategy. A brilliant strategist and astute observer, Joly recognized that Schulze would be his No. 1 shareholder whether BBY was public or private. He reached out to Schulze to engage in discussions, only to be rebuffed at first.

Joly recognized Best Buy couldn’t just cut costs or return to its past. Online retailing was here to stay and Amazon’s threat couldn’t be ignored. More important, Best Buy’s employees, customers and shareholders needed light at the end of the tunnel.

With Christmas approaching, Joly announced his “Renew Blue” strategy: a balance between retail and online strategies and in-store matching of online prices. His ace in the hole Amazon couldn’t match: the Geek Squad to help customers set up their home electronics. Joly also reshaped his leadership team to fit the new strategy, replacing Dunn’s team with Shawn Score to lead retail, Scott Druckslag to spearhead online, and Sharon McCollam as CFO.

Best Buy’s shares continued to fall to a December low of $11.29, as investors didn’t believe Schulze could make a fully financed offer, nor did they think Joly could turn around Best Buy. In late December, Schulze and the Best Buy board agreed to extend his deadline for two months. Meanwhile, Joly continued to reach out to Schulze.

In January, Joly announced good news: Retail sales didn’t decline during Christmas as expected, and online sales climbed 10 percent. The bleeding was stanched, and the turnaround underway.

Meanwhile, discussions between Schulze and Best Buy continued, leading to the agreement announced March 25: Schulze became chairman emeritus as Anderson and former COO Alan Lenzmeier rejoined the board, representing Schulze’s 21 percent stake. Joly’s role as CEO was cemented. To reinforce Schulze’s newfound confidence, Joly on April 5 announced a strategic partnership with Samsung to install boutiques in Best Buy stores, giving Samsung a showroom to compete with Apple stores.

While Best Buy still has a long way to go, the road ahead is now clearer. From their December low, Best Buy shares have more than doubled to $26, so Joly can focus all of his energies on making this turnaround successful.

This outcome is far better than most anticipated. Credit Schulze for his deep commitment to Best Buy, rising above wounded pride, while letting Joly run the company. Also credit Anderson’s role as honest broker, and Best Buy’s board for hiring Joly and working toward equitable solutions. The real hero here is Joly, who recognized what was needed to turn the business around and find a way to reach an accommodation with the founder — certainly not easy tasks.

In the end there are no losers here, only winners. Enlightened leadership is transforming a great retailer and preserving this bedrock of the Twin Cities. Other companies threatened by rapid shifts to online and mobile would be well advised to learn from Best Buy’s experience.

Resilience through Mindful Leadership

Please check out my Huffington Post article on Mindful Leadership. I had a great opportunity to discuss this subject on CNBC last week with Arianna Huffington, and I followed up with this article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-george/resilience-through-mindfu_b_2932269.html

Making Minnesota A Global Mecca for Health Care

This article is a special to the Sunday Star Tribune.

As Minnesota and the nation implement the Affordable Care Act, the Mayo Clinic’s proposal to make Rochester a “destination medical center” is most timely. The proposal has received broad endorsements from Gov. Mark Dayton and members of the Legislature.

Serving on Mayo’s board of trustees this past year, I gained a deeper appreciation of its importance, not just to Minnesota but as a role model for improving the nation’s health.

Unlike most academic health systems, Mayo is not asking for public funds for its $3.5 billion expansion in Rochester. Rather, it is asking the state to allocate about $500 million over 20 years of the new Mayo-generated state tax revenue to help finance the public infrastructure needed to support the growth.

Already the state’s largest employer, Mayo estimates that the destination medical center will create 35,000 to 45,000 new jobs and generate $3 billion in new taxes to the state.

While the proposal works its way through the Legislature, it should inspire a broader vision for Minnesota: to become the Mecca for outstanding health and health care. Health care has long been Minnesota’s strength. We should make it our calling card. Minnesota can become the beacon for the nation in how to create a healthy population by working with the finest health care resources in the country.

Minnesota ranks No. 5 nationally in terms of population health, behind Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Why shouldn’t we be No. 1? We’re already ranked first among all states for cardiovascular care, fewest sick days and health status.

On the other hand, we have challenges to reduce obesity (we’re ranked No. 15 among the 50 states) and deaths from cancer (No. 16). Minnesota has woefully underfunded public health with only $43 per person per year, which puts us at No. 48. Dayton should launch a “Healthy Living” initiative focused on healthy eating, regular exercise and reduced stress, alcohol use and smoking, supported by active programs from every health care organization and employer.

Based on Prof. Michael Porter’s theory of economic clusters, Minnesota is well positioned to become the national health care leader. With Mayo as the crown jewel, Minnesota can build on its strong base of providers like the University of Minnesota, Allina Health, Fairview, Park Nicollet, Regions and Health East that deliver outstanding patient care.

We also boast national leaders in health plans — UnitedHealth Group and its Optum Health; HealthPartners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Medica. Mayo and Optum Health recently announced the formation of Optum Labs, a collaborative research initiative to analyze patient outcomes by combining Optum’s claims information with Mayo’s patient data and clinical insights — information essential to move from the current fee-for-service model to reimbursement for health outcomes.

Minnesota also is the birthplace and leader of the medical technology cluster with Medtronic, St. Jude and Boston Scientific, combined with 3M’s prosperous health care business. Just as importantly, there are hundreds of med-tech companies striving to become the next Medtronic.

Finally, Minnesota is the national leader in integrative medicine to improve health and healing. The U’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, Allina’s Institute for Health and Healing, the Marsh, Hazelden and Pathways are national leaders in promoting patient-centered care with healing therapies that emphasize individual responsibility.

Through the collaboration of these exceptional resources — a committed state government, health plans, health care providers and suppliers, and progressive employers — Minnesota should adopt the bold goal of becoming the standard-bearer for the nation’s health. In so doing, we will attract people from all over the nation and the world to Minnesota: to visit, live and improve their health.

When the current legislative session is over, Dayton should convene the state’s health care leaders to devise concrete plans to make this vision a reality.