A Timeless Truth . . . MBWA


There are a handful of people who truly make a difference in our lives. Our parents leave an indelible impression that lasts a lifetime and determines our initial outlook on life and our learned values. But as we grow and interact with hundreds upon hundreds of people over the course of an average lifespan, very few make a real difference in how we think and live. Yet those few, whether we meet them early or late in life, are remembered vividly. Somehow they touched us deeply and made a lasting impression.  In most cases positively, unfortunately some negatively.

MaisterIn the first three years of building my start-up management consulting firm, two individuals helped shape my business outlook, values and behaviours in very positive ways. The first was David Maister, known in business circles as the world’s most trusted advisor.  I read his book, Managing the Professional Service Firm, and built my firm based on his principles of how to structure, organize and manage a professional services firm.  David stressed principles of trust, respect, client-first, meritocracy and merit-based compensation that can be built into a consulting firm to provide a sustainable competitive advantage.

And I must say, it worked. We worked hard, learned a lot, had great fun, helped a lot of companies improve their culture and leadership, and made money. It was a great place to work thanks to the principles of David Maister and the hiring of people who fit those principles.

But perhaps the person who had the most impact on me personally as a business professional was Tom Peters. In 1982 Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote what is now called one of the 10 best management books ever. In Search of Excellence. Not only was it the first real business book to top the New York Times Bestseller list, but over the past 30+ years has sold nearly 10 million copies. Tom and Bob’s work brought to life the concept of corporate culture and his words of wisdom about how leaders need to nurture, lead, build and reshape culture have formed a large part of my work with CEOs and senior executive teams.

And even though the business environment now is very different from 1982 (more VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) and technology has dramatically changed the world we live in and the speed at which we live, people haven’t changed.  We are very much the same social primates we were several hundred thousand years ago.

The fact is, people are people are people. And the principles detailed in In Search of Excellence are still very relevant.  Maybe even more so now that we seem to be getting away from human contact and relying more and more on big data!

tom petersI am fortunate to be here in Abu Dhabi speaking at the same conference as Tom Peters, who is now 73 years young, but just as passionate as ever about making organizations more human and more effective by focusing on employees first, and customers as second-first!

MBWA by the way is one of the key principles of effective leaders in highly effective organizations.  MBWA = Management By Wandering Around.  In other words, get out of your office and see what is really happening inside your organization and between employees and customers. Tom talks about Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, who religiously visits at least 25 different Starbucks stores a week, and not on a management road show, but just as a drop-in visit to see, smell and experience Starbucks in action.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.  John Le Carre

Thanks, Tom, for your continued inspiration, dedication to excellence, and constant prodding for leaders to really lead.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Timeless Truth . . . MBWA

  1. Dave Eaton says:

    Awesome, John

    Dave Eaton
    Senior Partner
    Practice Leader, Culture Transformation

    200 West Street
    Suite 400
    Waltham, MA 02451

    +1 781.609.4135 DD | +1 617.306.1411 MOBILE | +1 781.609.0790 FAX
    Latest on Culture:
    The Power of Culture Transformation
    Watch Case Study on Cultural Integration


  2. Pingback: Networking—It’s More Than Just Talking Business | Jim Green Enterprises

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s