Worse Than Enemies: The CEO’s Destructive Confidant


The article by psychoanalyst Kerry J. Sulkowicz in HBR, Feb 2004 explores how trusted insiders to the CEO can at most times complement their strengths, deriving their gratification vicariously – ie. Steve Ballmer to Bill Gates, Charlie Munger to Warren Buffett – but sometimes the confidant relationship can become toxic.

“Dangerous confidants come in all shapes and sizes. They are sometimes intentionally scheming and deceitful. Like Rasputin, the crafty manipulator of the Russian imperial family, these overtly bad confidants have sociopathic personalities: They habitually lie and cheat to achieve their aims without any apparent constraints of conscience.

“Take someone we’ll call Sanford Anderson. (I have changed the names in our examples to protect the privacy of the individuals and companies depicted.)

The CEO of a privately held real estate business in the Midwest, a company worth billions, Anderson fell victim to just such a confidant. Early in his career, Anderson’s corporate attorney, Gregg Mayer, had saved the firm millions by deftly handling a discrimination lawsuit, which earned him Anderson’s undying gratitude and respect.

“As the years passed, Anderson came to rely on Mayer’s advice about everything from investment strategy, architecture and design, to personnel development.

“Although Anderson was in most respects a highly effective CEO, he had never seriously contemplated the prospect of retiring. Anderson’s worries about retirement took the form of denial of his own mortality.

“Instead of acknowledging his anxiety, he manifested it by plunging even more deeply into work, while ignoring his fatigue and gradual loss of passion. Consequently, he had never set in place an adequate succession plan.

“Given the toxic confidant that he was, Mayer used the lack of succession planning as an opportunity to advance his own interests. Mayer preyed on Anderson’s anxieties about aging and retirement by fueling his fears about whom might want to wrest control of his business.

“… When Anderson stepped down, he impulsively handed the reins of power to Mayer. Shocked by the announcement of the new CEO, several key members of the management team stormed out in protest. Unfortunately , without the skills of these key players, the company was soon in trouble, and Anderson’s legacy was ruined…”

Sulkowicz describes three distinct types of destructive confidants:

1. Reflector: Mirrors the CEO, constantly reassuring him that “he is the fairest of them all.”
2. Insulator: Buffers CEO from organization, preventing critical info from getting out and in.
3. Usurper: Cunningly ingratiates himself with the CEO, in a desperate bid for power.

He says most CEOs are narcissistic – or else they wouldn’t be leaders – and select reflector confidants who cater to their fragile self-esteem but are themselves driven by their own neurotic needs to please authority.

CEOS who seek insulators tend to arrogant, abusive and abrasive and so at odds with their subordinates they need a mediator who can translate their poorly communicated ideas. The insulator is constantly apologizing to the others on the CEO’s behalf and shielding the CEO to a point where he gets cut off from senior management and the grassroots.

Usurpers are the worst of the lot. They are sociopaths, deliberately scheming and ambitious, and only uses the relationship to empower himself.

The best literary example of this: Shakespeare’s Iago who manipulated Othello to kills his beloved Desdemona.

Sulkowicz cautions that ousting the toxic confidant is often difficult because of the personal stake the CEO has in it. The most unaware CEOs choose the worst confidants, and may repeat this pattern if unable to see how destructive the relationship has become.

Often, the best thing to do is jettison both at the same time.

MORE.
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Teaching students to blog

[via Robin Good]

Howard Rheingold on teaching students to blog:

For the past several years, I’ve experimented with teaching students a blogging rhetoric that leads them to exercise public voice.

For example, the first post is to be aimed at a clearly imagined public – people known and unknown to the author who might reply, learn something, debate the blogger’s assertions – who could, potentially, join the blogger in some kind of collective action.

First, I asked students to provide links that would educate, inform, persuade, or motivate that public, and to write a post that gives enough context to the link to enable readers to decide whether or not to click it.

Then I asked them to experiment with connective writing by offering two links and their contexts, as well as an overarching description of what connects the links. Analytic and critical posts follow, taking issue with, contesting, debating posts made by others on their blogs. Finally, student bloggers were asked to make posts that advocate a position and provide links to support their assertions.

MORE (pdf).

Blow up the newsroom

[via Journerdism]

Posting by Deborah Potter on the drastic change at Naples Daily News:

It happened a year ago at the Naples Daily News. Print reporters and photographers were all told that they no longer worked for the paper, says Phil Lewis, editor and vice president of naplesdailynews.com/Naples Daily News. They were all transferred to dot.com–which the company now sees as a kind of local wire service–and they file their stories first online. The newspaper staff is now 75 percent smaller, made up primarily of copy editors, designers and layout people. And the company’s approach to the news has changed dramatically as a result, Lewis told the Future of Journalism Jobs conference at the University of Maryland:

“In the past, hurricane planning was always about how we would get the newspaper printed. Where will we print if we had no power? Where will we move the copy desk? This year, it was about how to tell people what is happening in real time. Our readers will evacuate to Orlando, they’ll be in a hotel room online on their laptops and we have to get them information.”

Lewis wants naplesdailynews.com to become THE source of information for all of those people, wherever they are. “I think our site should post our stories and [link to] what everybody else has too,” including local television and social networking sites. That’s causing some angst in his newsroom, but it sounds like smart business to me and it could actually improve the quality of the journalism. As Lewis points out, if you’re going to make it easy for your users to see what else is out there, “we’d better be doing it best.”

Formulae for online news success

Jay Rosen on the new success model:

  1. High quality aggregation within a strong editorial focus. (Like the Huffington Post nationally, or Twin Cities Daily Planet locally.)
  2. Blogging platform with the best posts filtered to the front page. (Like Daily Kos)
  3. Original reporting with hybrid strength: amateurs with pro support (training, production values, copy editing, editorial oversight, and traffic), pros with amateur support (like Regina Lynn; see also my Idea Lab post on beat reporting with a social network) and pros doing what pros have always done.
  4. Features with narrow comprehensiveness: everything about something. (Lisa Williams: “That is, a site with some Denver restaurants is OK; but a site with ALL Denver restaurants is better.”)
  5. Forums that allow a previously atomized group–people sharing interests and problems–to connect and converse with each other.
  6. Crowdsourcing projects that gather information impossible to get any other way. (Like WNYC’s efforts, or the News & Observer’s speeding investigation.)
  7. Find, prepare and place online data sets that are “available” (but not easy to use), and of strong interest to a user public; let people access and interact with the information by framing it properly and providing the bigger narrative that the data is a part of. (See chicagocrime.org.)
  8. Reverse publishing: web-to-print, for the highest quality content generated online. (Read Dan Barkin: “Every day except Sunday, we take photos, forum comments, user-submitted school news, user-nominated volunteer stories and publish it on Page 2.” See YourHub.)
  9. Absolute commitment to breaking news in the coverage area by any means necessary: pro, am, aggregation, blogging, crowdsourced.
  10. Geo-tagged information: organized so people can access it by location, or via a map.
  11. Headlines and summaries optimized for search; open archives and permalinks.
  12. Put-it-all-together key topic pages that combine… aggregation, original reporting, blog posts, data, forums and crowdsourced information on something big and of intense interest, like a bridge collapse.


MORE.

Compare to Howard Owens’ 12 ways to save journalism post:

  1. Become a blogger. By this, I don’t necessarily mean “start a blog,” but that is never a bad idea. More importantly, become an avid blog reader. Blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist. They should read every blog related to their beats. They should read blogs about their own interests and hobbies. They should read blogs about their profession. To get blogging is to get how things have changed.
  2. Become a producer. Pick up a digital recorder, a point-and-shoot camera or a video camera and start producing content beyond text. Do this as part of your job, fine, or do it on your personal time. The goal is to understand DIY. Post stuff on YouTube, Flickr or any number of other UGC sites.
  3. Participate. As you read blogs, leave comments. If your newspaper.com has comments on stories, read the comments and add your own. Become known as somebody who converses on the Internet.
  4. Build a web site. It will greatly expand your mind about how the web works if you go a bit beyond just setting up an account on Blogger or WordPress. Learn a little HTML. Better yet, learn some PHP, Cold Fusion, JavaScript or other web development language. You should own your own domain, anyway.
  5. Become web literate. You should know what Flash is, and how it differs from AJAX. You should know the meaning of things like HTML, RSS, XML, IP, HTTP and FTP. You should understand at least how people use applications and tools to build web sites. You should know the potential and the limitations of each.
  6. Use RSS. You need an RSS reader and lots of RSS feeds to consume. This will help you better grok distributed media.
  7. Shop online. Part of your goal is to become immersed in the digital lifestyle. You will learn stuff about the digital life if you shop on Amazon, Ebay and other ecommerce sites. As you do, think about how these sites work and why they’re set up as they are.
  8. Buy mobile devices. Get a video iPod. Get a smart phone (an iPhone, Treo, Helio Ocean or Nokia N-series are all good places to start). Learn about distributed, take-it with-you-anywhere content. Buy a laptop and tap into some free wi-fi while you’re out and about. Learn what digital life is like when you’re not shackled to a desktop machine.
  9. Become an avid consumer of digital content. Watch videos on YouTube. Download video and audio podcasts (take them with you on your iPod). Visit the best newspaper sites in the world and watch what they’re doing. Turn on your TV less and your computer more.
  10. Be a learner. Technology and culture is changing fast. You can’t keep up unless you’re dedicated to learning. I love this quote from Eric Hoffer because it is so appropriate to what our industry is going through now: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
  11. Be a change agent. Talk about what you’re learning with your co-workers. Get other journalists excited about the new digital communication/media tools.
  12. Finally, read Journalism 2.0 (PDF) by Mark Briggs. You’ll learn about the stuff covered above and how it is changing modern journalism. Brigg’s book is the best primer on the topic you will find.

MORE

What can news orgs learn from the music industry’s mistakes

Interesting post by Jane Pinckard at GigaOM – What Can Games Learn from Music’s Mistakes?

Gist:

1. Radiohead is offering its latest album, “In Rainbows” as a direct download — for a price set by the consumer — a first among high-profile bands.

2. The lesson: Create a fair and consumer-friendly way to free the media.

3. Consumers want the freedom to use their media as they wish. They want to listen to songs in their cars, on their PCs and on their living room stereos. They want to create mixes and playlists and share them with friends; to rip apart songs and create mashups. They want to customize their experience of music.

4. Talented game developers and small studios want a greater degree of access to consumers and want to deal with publishers on their own terms.

5. But the game industry also has its own unique obstacle: the lack of an agnostic, standard platform for game software.

6. “A really interesting thing is to think about the ‘If it’s all free, the money’s in concerts/live performance’ angle for music. Is there an equivalent for games?” The answer, of course, is that there isn’t — at least not yet.

7. As Radiohead singer Thom Yorke said to Time Magazine, “I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one.”

MORE.

First Malaysian in space

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor made history today becoming the first Malaysian in space on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft at about 9.30pm (Malaysian time) on Wednesday, October 10, 2007.

“It’s a small step for me, but a great leap for the Malaysian people,” Dr Sheikh Muszaphar told the Associated Press, rephrasing Neil Armstrong’s legendary words after the Apollo landing on the moon in 1969.

(The screencap off the live TV coverage was taken by my ten-year-old, Jordan Jay, who wondered why no one was in space to take the pic.)
MORE.

Why AP’s ASAP flopped

Interesting piece on why AP will be folding its ASAP experiment come Oct 31. [via NewsVideographer]

In a gist:

1.NO MORE MONOPOLY: AP’s whole model was predicated on the idea of being a utility and having monopoly. Selling everything through the members may have worked at one time, but we’re beyond that point. (Doug Fisher)

2.BLOGGED ALONE: AP’s ASAP blog, Far and Wide, didn’t actively reach out to other bloggers, solicit comments from readers or link to material they didn’t produce, all commonplace in the blogosphere. They were blogging, but they really didn’t get the ethos of the blogosphere. There’s a lot of blogs on newspaper sites that are just like that. (Doug Fisher)

3.TRYING TOO HARD: ASAP failed to reach a younger crowd because younger readers and viewers do not go to a single website but instead visit a variety of specialized ones. It also may have used too many trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy bells and whistles. It was doomed to fail because it distributed content through the “big, fat, steel-reinforced, spiked spider-covered wall of newspaper companies.” It was akin to ‘Lawrence Welk trying to dance at a rap concert’ (Scott Anderson)

4.MIS-TARGETTED: It struggled to be ‘hip’. Like “the scene in an ‘urban’ comedy in which a middle-aged white character actor talks like Snoop Dogg – equally embarrassing to young, old, black, and white.” (Gawker)

5. POSITIVES: ASAP allowed its staff to pursue journalism in a variety of forms and required them to be inventive. It showed what’s possible in a multimedia world. There’s a lot of types of stories we did that the AP had never done before, and I think you’ll start to see those types of stories appear with the AP in the future.

AP editors said they plan to apply what they learned, and will continue to incorporate multimedia in a variety of ways. Far and Wide, for example, will be used as a prototype as the AP goes forward with new media ventures (Eric Carvin, an ASAP news editor.)

HISTORY: ASAP was launched as a multimedia wire service by The Associated Press two years ago and aimed at the readers ages 18-34. At its peak, site employed 27 people, producing content for a premium wire service distributed to about 300 clients. The service is now down to 19 employees and about 200 clients. It will close on Oct 31, 2007.

Ten ways to use your blog to teach


Interesting post relevant to lecturers and trainers from EduBlogs:

1. Post materials and resources

The web is a fantastic tool when it comes to distributing resources – all you have to do on your edublog is upload, or copy and paste, your materials to your blog and they’ll be instantly accessible by your students from school and from home. What’s more, you can easily manage who gets to access them through password and plug-in safety measures.

2. Host online discussions

If you’ve ever struggled to create an online discussion space – you’re going to love what edublogs will do for you. Students can simply respond to blog posts and discuss topics you’ve set them without the added complexity of using a bulletin board – commentators can sign up to receive emails when their comments are replied to and you can easily manage and edit all responses through your blog’s administrative panel.

3. Create a class publication

Do you remember the good old days of class newspapers? Well, they just got a lot easier with your edublog – you can add students as contributors, authors and even editors in order to produce a custom designed, finely tuned and engaging collaborative online publication by your class.

4. Replace your newsletter

Always enjoyed photocopying and stapling pages and pages of newsletters on a Friday afternoon? Thought not! It’s ridiculously simple to post class information, news, events and more on your edublog.

5. Get your students blogging

It’s all very good sending your students off to blog sites, or even creating them for them, but you need to operate as a hub for their work and a place where they can easily visit each others blogs from. Your edublog can be used to glue together your students blogs, and besides which, if you’re asking your students to blog. You should certainly be doing it yourself.

6. Share your lesson plans

We all love planning and admin, right? Well, using an edublog can turn planning and reflection on classes into a genuinely productive – and even collaborative – experience. Sharing your plans, your reflections, your ideas and your fears with other educators both at your school and around the world using an edublog is a great way to develop as a teacher, and a brilliant use of a blog.

7. Integrate multimedia of all descriptions

With a couple of clicks you can embed online video, multimedia presentations, slideshows and more into your edublog and mix it up with your text and static resources. No CDs required, no coding necessary – just select the video, podcasts or slidecast you’d like to use and whack it in your blog to illustrate, engage and improve your teaching toolbox.

8. Organise, organise, organise

You don’t only have to use your edublog as a pedagogue, you can equally easily use the tools to organise everything from sports teams in your school, to rehearsals for the upcoming production. You can set up as many edublogs as you like, so don’t be afraid to use a dedicated one for a dedicated event – your can even use it as a record to look back on down the line.

9. Get feedback

There’s nothing that says you can’t allow anonymous commenting on a blog (although you’re also entirely within your rights to put all comments through moderation!) but why not think about using a blog as a place for students – and even parents, to air issues, leave feedback or generally tell you how great you are.

10. Create a fully functional website

One of the great things about edublogs are that they are much, much more than just blogging tools. In fact, you can use your edublog to create a multi-layered, in-depth, multimedia rich website – that hardly looks like a blog at all. So, if you’d rather create a set of static content, archive of important information or even index for your library – you can bend an edublog to suit your needs.

Lecturers and Powerpoint


Just attended a symposium on new media in which the first two lecturers spoke at length about multimedia with no video, audio, or relevant pictures.

Just a bunch of bullet points streaming across blue screens.

Note to lecturers in journalism. If you really want to convince people that multimedia is here, use it. And stop harping about Convergence, Mobility and Globalisation – show it. Give more examples and case studies – the more visual the better.

Don’t bore the audience to tears.

The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman

This troubling little film by Alfonso “Children of Men” Cuarón and Naomi Klein, and directed by Jonás Cuarón, brings the stark realities of disaster capitalism, or what Klein calls The Shock Doctrine.

Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration outsources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater.

After the tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts.

New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public schools will never be reopened. Instead, following Friedman’s suggestion, the government replaced the school system with privately run charter schools.

Klein’s arguments make for compelling reading at The Guardian’s minisite or read the excerpts beginning here.

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