Tag Archives: passion

Was Ann Curry Simply A “Bad Hire?” – Hiring Well, A True Modern Business Challenge

Not quite the right “chemistry”

Why Ann Curry was Replaced on the Today Show:
NBC News chief Steve Capus candidly told THR that he thought Curry had not been right for the job in many respects. He said he agreed with interviewer Marisa Guthrie that Curry had faltered in the cooking segments, movie star interviews and fluffy features that make up a large portion of “Today.”
“I think her real passion is built around reporting on international stories,” he said. “It’s tough to convey a sincere interest in something if you don’t possess it … and you could tell with her, you can tell with any anchor, whether they’re into it or not. And I think we’ve now come up with a role that will play to her strengths.”
Capus said that, although he felt it was right to give Curry a chance at the top “Today” job (she had put in fourteen years as newsreader and already been passed over once before), he had had no choice but to make the change.
“We gave her a year to prove herself, and ultimately we came to the conclusion that she had played at the highest level she could,” he said. “When you’re in the major leagues of our profession, you’ve got to continue to be at peak performance in order to stay there.”
Ann Curry’s ‘Today’ Exit: Steve Capus, NBC News President, Says ‘We Gave Her A Year To Prove Herself’


(First, a disclaimer – I have not watched a norming news show in years.  I am an early morning NPR listener.  So, I’m just reflecting from what I have read).

So, who do you hire next?

That is always the question, isn’t it?  The jury is in – the right people doing the right work in the right way make all the difference.  And the wrong people? – Well, that can lead to disaster in a hurry…

Recently, the high profile “hiring fail” was Ann Curry at the Today Show.  Don’t you just know that the folks at NBC wish they had gotten this right.  But, they didn’t.  And their mistake, their “bad hire,” cost them viewers, and advertising dollars, and profits.  And as I have read through the many accounts, I suspect that it really did boil down to two things:

#1 – She had a Passion Mismatch.
Ann Curry really is a news person, not a “fluff” person.  And the Today Show is a combination of the two – no use complaining about it.

And #2 – She was a Team Member mismatch.
She never quite “connected” with the “right chemistry” with Matt Lauer.

In other words, Ann Curry is a great, hard-working, professional – but not quite the fit for this particular job.  And, you know – I don’t think we should blame Ann.  I think it was a bad hire…

When I teach my students about how to do well in interviews, I tell them that every interviewer wants the answer to these four questions:

#1 – Can you do this job?
#2 – Can you do this job better than all those other folks I am considering for this job?
#3 – Can I trust you?
#4 – Are you a good team player?

When we think about Ann Curry, there is so much “good” –

• Work Ethic — ✔
• Competence — ✔
• Trustworthiness — ✔
• “Chemistry” – not quite a ✔

The folks at Express Employment Professionals have come up with the five greatest threats facing businesses today:

• inability to innovate,
• losing competitive advantage
• high costs of reckless hiring
• poor leadership and communication, and
• regulatory nightmares

It’s that third one – the high costs of reckless hiring — that is so very hard to get right.

If you are good at making the right hire, you’ve got a rare gift.  If not, get better.  Especially if you are in the hiring business in any way.

Customer Disloyalty and Business as We Shift Toward Subjectivity

I had three different people recommend a book to me last week.  The book, Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose by Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, and Jagdish N. Sheth is about a lot of things, especially the power of passion and purpose in business.  But it is also about the seemingly ever-increasing changing world we now live in.  And those changes keep coming, keep accelerating…  Change will continue, and spread.  This seems an absolute certainty.

As I read, this jumped out at me:

French Philosopher Pierre Levy, (who has devoted his professional life to studying the cultural and cognitive impacts of digital technologies) believes that the shift toward subjectivity may prove to be one of the most important considerations in business in this century.  …feelings and intuition (will) rise in stature in the common mind.

The authors point to the search of many to find deeper meaning in work, and they point to companies trying to make the world a better place.  For example:  Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz unabashedly says his company’s primary mission is to “make the world a better place.”  Swartz, and other leaders like him,

are resolute and successful business professionals who augment their human-centered company visions with sound management skills and an unswerving commitment to do good buy all who are touched by their companies.”

But, back to the “shift toward subjectivity.”  Consider — “Subjectivity/subjective:  reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind; lacking in reality or substance.” 

So, is this era the era of “perceived reality?”  “Perceived value?”  If it is, then people will increasingly go to the companies that give them what they perceive as valuable at this moment.  And they will change companies as quickly as that perceived value dims.  In other words, loyalty of the customer is a thing of the past.  The customer’s loyalty is only loyalty to immediate perceived value.  And once that perception disappears, that customer will start looking around for an alternative.

I realize that many people have written many times about the loss of customer loyalty.  This “era of subjectivity” just helps me understand it a little better.  And since subjectivity is the opposite of objectivity, then this helps me understand how demonstrating “objective value” is not all that effective against the now more powerful subjective perception of value.

In a more-and-more data driven world, maybe the data we most need is the data telling us how to build emotional connections and deeper subjective value.  Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?

What a challenging age we live in…

Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness & Florida’s The Great Reset – Coming for the September First Friday Book Synopsis

This morning, a large crowd gathered for the August First Friday Book Synopsis. Karl Krayer delivered the synopsis of Wellbeing:  The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, and I delivered the synopsis of the immensely practical Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by Verne Harnish.

For September, traditionally the official launch of the new school year, we have chosen two important books.  Karl Krayer will present the big best-seller, Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.  Hsieh is the CEO of the successful and popular Zappos.com.

I will present the synopsis of The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity by Richard Florida.  Florida is the pace-setting author whose earlier book, The Rise of the Creative Class, generated thought and conversation for so many.  The very title of his new book is profound:  we are in a time that demands, and is experiencing, a great reset.

You can read the review of The Great Reset by Bob Morris, from our blog, here.  Here is his last line: In my opinion, The Great Reset to be the most valuable book that Richard Florida has written…thus far.

One person, a first-time participant this morning, described the event as a fast dose of content, “fire-hosed from the speakers into the minds of the participants.”  I think this is a pretty apt description.  Our event is definitely fast-paced, content-rich, and content-focused.

If you live in the DFW area, plan to join us on Friday, September 3, for this gathering filled with content, great networking, and good food.

(If you do not receive our reminder e-mails, click the “sign up here” button on the right side of this page).

Do You Suffer from a Motivation Deficit?

There are business books that deal with practically every business issue you can imagine.  But there is one theme that never disappears, that is perpetually resurrected, because it deals with such a basic human problem.  It goes by a lot of names:  motivation; self-improvement; self-help.  The idea is simple – how can I get better at what I do? — every day.  Over and over again, I need to improve…myself.

And there are two parts to this getting better battle.  One part is skill development.  The other part is, where will I find the energy/focus/motivation to get better?

I recently re-read my handout to a book I presented back in July, 2001:  The Other 90%:  How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life by Robert W. Cooper.  The book reminds us all that we simply are not living up to our possibilities, our capacities, our capabilities.  We can get better at what we do! We can do better at our job, at our relationships, at our lives.

The book is filled with quotes like these:

“What if every day I had questioned yesterday’s definition of my best?  What if I’d listened to my own heart instead of their words.  Then I might have kept looking deeper and giving the world more of the best that was hidden inside me.  All of us are mostly unused potential.”  (Hugh Cooper Sr., the author’s grandfather)

“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  (Nelson Mandela)

“The world belongs to those with the most energy.”  (Alexis de Tocqueville)

First thing Monday morning, do you wake up envisioning – “Another week of stress and strain at work” – or “Another chance to do more of the things I love”?

As Hegel observed, “We may affirm that absolutely nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

No matter who you are, no matter how hard your life has been, no matter what challenges you are facing right now, every moment you have within your reach what my grandfather knew we all have – the opportunity to shape what you are becoming.

Here’s what I think. People who only listen to motivational speakers, people who only read self-help books, are probably not tackling the skill development they need to tackle.  Motivation help alone does not cut it.

But, on the other hand, we probably could all do better than we are doing.  After the skill development, there is an attitude adjustment and improvement, a raising of the energy bar, that we all need to tackle.  Over and over again.  So maybe we should read an occasional book that in one way or another reminds us that we really could and probably should become all that we can be.

The Other 90% is a good book to choose.


The book is filled with practical suggestions, such as how to take a short break during the day that helps you renew your energy.  You can purchase my synopsis of this book, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

My favorite line from Ken Robinson’s The Element — and a couple of other reflections

This past Friday, I preseented a synopsis of the wonderful book the Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Ph.D.  I have a few comments on the book, and a reflection on the morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

First, the book.  It is a really good read!  This book is a “feel good” book, that challenges one deeply.  You feel good because Robinson tells story after story of a person who had been overlooked, unfulfilled, a little “lost,” until he or she found just the right path.  The stories were numerous:  Richard Branson, Paul McCartney (Robinson is British, and probably a little partial to other Brits), the billiards great Ewa Lawrence, and many others.  In many cases, our “normal” educational system had failed to see and feed a student’s potential.  In fact, far too often, potential had been practically squashed.  The book is challenging because it calls into questions our basic assumptions about just what we should be “teaching” in our schools.  He argues passionately for a new understanding regarding what is truly important (with “creativity” at the top of his list).  It is a provocative and useful set of questions to ponder.  By the way, you can watch the video of his terrific presentation from the TED conference, Do Schools Kill Creativity? at the TED video site here.

Now, here is my favorite line in the book.  Elvis Presley was rejected for his school’s glee club.  Here is what Robinson wrote:  “they said his voice would ruin their sound…  We all know the tremendous heights the glee club scaled once they managed to keep Elvis out.”  This man is a witty writer!

Second, the event.  We are in our 12th year of the First Friday Book Synopsis.  Karl Krayer and I have presented synopses of well over 250 books in the 11+ years we have been meeting.  On May 1, we had our largest number of participants ever — 128 people.  I asked one person why he thought it had grown to such a number, and he said:  “everyone is looking for a job.”  That may be true, and networking is certainly a critical factor — never more so than in this challenging time in our economy.

But another participant said this (this is a slight paraphrase — I did not record her comments):  “I’m not usually a morning person.  But I come to this, and I really feel like I learn important information from two good books. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I attend.” I think that may be a key part of the secret of this event.  It really does provide a lot of really helpful and useful material in a very short, compact time frame.  Yes, people feel like they have accomplished something important by attending the First Friday Book Synopsis.

So – to all who make this a success, thank you.  I hope we provide you with that important sense of accomplishment.

Passion — The Crucial Ingredient that Precedes “Getting Really Good” at Something

There is a clear finding in the books I have presented so far in 2009.  If you put Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell with Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, you learn that getting really, really good at anything requires a lot, a whole lot, of hard work, with a discipline of pursuing “deliberate practice” over the long haul.

Gladwell puts it this way (in a music context):  “Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (p. 39).

Colvin pursues this further, suggesting the specific steps required to “deliberately practice”:

What Deliberate Practice Is And Isn’t:  For starters, it isn’t what most of us do when we’re “practicing.”

• It’s designed specifically to improve performance

• It can be repeated a lot

• Feedback on results is continuously available

• It’s highly demanding mentally

• It isn’t much fun

• Deliberate practice is not the only thing (luck; circumstances play a part) – but without it, greatness is not achieved and does not show up

So, if it requires much hard work to get really good at something, and for those who do so, they discover, and admit, that deliberate practice is never fun, what in the world will drive someone to put in such practice? Colvin says that it must come from intrinsic, not extrinsic, motivation.  And he has a chapter on the most crucial ingredient in this mix:  passion.  In his chapter on passion, he states:  “The consistent finding reported by many researchers examining domains is that high creative achievement and intrinsic motivation go together. Creative people are focused on the task (How can I solve this problem?) and not on themselves (What will solving this problem do for me?)” (pp. 188-189).

The best ideas and observations from the best business books really do tie together.  Jim Collins in Good to Great describes the Hedgehog Concept, in which the first circle is this: “What are you passionate about?” And now, a new book by “one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and innovation,” Ken Robinson, is entitled: the Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  (the Element is my selection for the May First Friday Book Synopsis).   He states:  “I use the term the Element to describe the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.” Passion is truly a dominant theme in current business thinking.

So — here is the question that we each need to ask: What do I care deeply enough about that I am willing to put in significant time, over the long haul, to get better at it? Even if the time I put in is not necessarily fun.

So: What are you passionate about?