Monthly Archives: December 2008

Let’s Vent Against the Slobs (Episode 28)

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© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in The Movies: The Writing on the Wall | 1 Comment

The Weiss Clan gathers at The Palace for Christmas in New York

Since it’s my blog, you’ll have to look at my slides!

Bottom Row: My mother, Roseanna; daughter Danielle; grandaughter Gabrielle; son-in-law Jan; father, Jack.
Top Row: My son, Jason; uncle Irwin; wife Maria; Moi; niece Chelsea; sister Lori; brother-in-law Henny.

Tex and Gabby

Jason, Danielle, and Gabby

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The Secrets of Million Dollar Consulting

Do you know the 19 principles of million dollar consulting? Perhaps a refresher or new ideas to start off the new year with. Listen to this great podcast so you too can start the new year with a bang.

and now also on iTunes

Click Here for entire podcast series table of contents

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Podcast Series: The Way I See It | Leave a comment

Ovation, Please

Before I go any further, might I ask that your give me some applause at this point? Just something prefatory, anticipating how good this article will become. You’ll see why in the next 600 words.

We’re in New York for Christmas, and saw “Gypsy” the other night on Broadway. We wanted to catch Patti LuPone before the show closes in the next couple of weeks, and somehow we had managed to miss this classic, a Styne/Sondheim fixture in the house of major musicals. The show was at about 90 percent of capacity and we had house seats: fifth row, center.

Laura Benanti, who plays the adult Gypsy Rose Lee, was magnificent, an elegant, classy stripper, if there ever was one. The cast was still giving it everything they have, yet it’s a dated piece of dubious resilience. Ironically, I kept thinking of the movie, which I had truly enjoyed, in another lifetime.

And I was aching for the reincarnation of Ethel Merman, the preternatural belter, who is the archetypical Mama Rose.

Patty LuPone, whom I’ve always liked, and who won a Tony for the role along with Ms. Benanti, spent the night screeching and overacting. She is the draw (she’s leaving the play and it can’t survive without her, since it’s too expensive to bring in equivalent star power in this economy), and her acolytes were present in full force, the same near-crazed outpouring of affection you see for Liza Minelli, Streisand, and Bette Midler, no matter what the quality of their performances. She put on the performance they wanted, all LuPone all the time, but not one that helped my enjoyment of the show very much.

At her concluding, iconic number she received an ovation, then camped about the stage a bit in accepting all the love. At the curtain, of course, we experienced the what-is-now-assured-Broadway-accompaniment, as certain as no taxis on a rainy night: the obligatory standing ovation.

I shall digress here for a brief history lesson. When Flo Ziegfeld (see the outstanding biography, “Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business,” by Ethan Mordden) was the impresario changing musical theater forever, culminating in the mighty “Showboat” and the groundbreaking “Ole Man River,” a standing ovation would be seen less than once a year and then only for a Broadway debut of great power. Several times a decade—that was it.

Today, you would think that the theater seats began delivering jolts with the coda, as people leap to their feet to applaud nothing more than the average. And these aren’t just the tourists from Kansas, they are New York theater patrons, lowering the performance bar as if in a limbo contest.

I’ve seen this phenomenon as a professional speaker. People are too prone to get up and start clapping, though I suspect they’re often just stretching their legs after an ennui-inducing presentation. (I’ve actually seen people asleep who, roused by the noise around them, leap up and proclaim a great speech. As they say, “In your dreams.”)

Why are we so anxious to shower what we should expect (a decent performance) with praise that ought to be reserved for Nijinsky or Callas? Perhaps it’s because we so desperately need to convince ourselves we’re having a great time. (Who wants to say they wasted $250 on tickets?) Perhaps because we see a few benighted souls arise and don’t want to leave them standing, alone and awkward, in their embarrassment.

Or perhaps it’s because we want that kind of affection for ourselves, people cheering us for simply doing our best, even if our best is really quite ordinary.

The Australians have it right. A standing ovation is very rare, and the day I received one in Sydney, so prolonged that I had to go back on stage twice and finally leave the hall for it to stop, was one of the highlights of my entire career, precisely because it is so rarely granted there. These people had no interest in making me feel good. They were expressing their rare maximum expression of thanks for an equally rare day when I was in the perfect zone.

We need to bring some calibration back into our gratitude. If everything is wonderful, then nothing is wonderful. It’s the recognition and acceptance of the mediocre that truly enables us to appreciate the far rarer outstanding and superb.

It’s being content with sitting and clapping politely for a best effort, that makes standing and yelling for the best you’ve ever seen much more fulfilling.

Thank you for listening. You may be seated.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Alas Babylon | 6 Comments

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate this day, and to all of you who may not but still appreciate the sentiment. As a gift to my Contrarian Consulting colleagues and the Alan’s Blog community, you may want to watch the inestimable Dan Gilbert here:

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Alan Weiss interviewed by Simma Lieberman

Alan Weiss interviewed by Simma Lieberman in a SAC (Society for Advancement of Consulting®) and alliance partner teleconference on Power Platform Speaking. Learn why you need mostly steak and how the rest sizzles out.

Click on arrow below for podcast to start

and now also on iTunes

Click Here for entire podcast series table of contents

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Podcasts Series: Brave New World | Leave a comment

Interview with Alan

For a quick, sharp interview, go here:

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Posted in Business of Consulting | Leave a comment

Why Madoff Made Off, Blagojevich Made Hay, And Other Consulting Principles

During his presidential campaign, John McCain suggested that the head of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) ought to be fired. McCain was lambasted for being rash, out of touch, desperate, and (of course) too old.

Turns out the right adjective would have been “prescient.”

However, Mad Madoff made off with everyone’s money not just because regulators were cozy with him (or asleep), and not only because he was slick, but because he was trusted. He was trusted because he created the perception of an “insider’s” world, where there were actually people who could help you land on the sun and not be incinerated. You could merely enjoy the warmth and work on your tan.

So through the perception of special connections, and deliberately not wanting to know too much about how it all worked, investors large and larger were all to happy to act quite irrationally in order to fulfill greedy intentions. Yes, Virginia, charitable institutions and philanthropies can be as greedy as the rest of us mortals because they are, in fact, run by mortals. The Institution for Good, Greatness, and the Betterment of Human Kind is, unhappy to report, run by human kind. And they can be as avaricious and self-centered as, well, Rob Blegojevich.

People are stunned that whoever actually votes in Illinois could have elected such a foul-mouthed jerk to govern the state. (I live in Rhode Island, and used to live in New Jersey, so nothing surprises me and I’m not about to cast any stone at any time.) The truth is, people elected him and supported him who wanted something. The wanted a city job or contract; they wanted a favor of the local ward healer; they wanted their kid in a certain school. Or they wanted not to have to pay attention to details.

Politics is the great trickle down phenomenon. We get the kind of government we deserve, that is, the one we voted into office. There was no evidence that Blegojevich could serve as governor with distinction (as there is no evidence that Caroline Kennedy could serve as Senator with distinction, and there’s another story), but evidence is not what elections are about. Elections are about brands, drawing power, sound bites, manipulation of the press, and above all, money. In this last election, admittedly a defining moment in history, we’re proud that about 60% of eligible voters went to the polls.

That also tells you that 40% didn’t.

For Madoff and Blegojevich’s sins, there is a search for external culpability: The SEC, the intermediaries, the crooked political machines, deception of the perpetrators, insufficient attention of the media, you name it. But people made their own decisions to invest and to vote.

What do we hear in organizational America as consultants or as consumers? “That’s not my job.” “That’s above my pay grade.” “You’ll have to talk to another department.” I’m just finishing a vicious battle with Fedex over a box they lost for a workshop I conducted in Australia. The accounting people were only responsible for billing me, not credits; the claims people were only responsible for trying to find the lost books (never found) not credits; the international operation was only responsible for tracking, not credits. I finally wrote twice (by Fedex) to CEO Fred Smith and, after three months, got it settled, but at a great cost to Fedex’s reputation with me.

The show-stopping comment from accounts payable, after I had told them I had secured a credit and gave them the manager’s name: “We never make outgoing phone calls, even to our own people.” Funny, but when I was consulting with some of the best companies in the world, they had an odd rule: When you pick up the phone, you OWN the issue. You can research it, you can involve others, but you can’t give it away.

We all have to own our own issues, if you get my drift. You put some thought into whom you vote for, beyond your own immediate gratification to have a parking ticket waived. You ask for other opinions about investment options for your money, despite an exclusive club membership or secret decoder ring being dangled. You understand that the customer on the phone may just be vital to your success and a commitment to help might, ultimately, be important to your company’s success and, therefore, your own.

As solo practitioners, we need to “own” our business beyond having our name on the stock certificate. We have to own our issues and not blame the economy, the technology, the competition, or the society. A great many people I’m working with are having banner years, because they realize they can’t say, “That’s not my job.”

Some things, alas, are too good to be true. But some other things, listen closely, are too true to be good.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Alas Babylon | 2 Comments

A Look Backward in Nostalgia

A quick return to Burma Shave and the days when driving the old man’s Chevy really meant something. Click here for presentation by OldBlueWebDesigns.com

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Posted in The Movies: Life in Reel Time | Leave a comment

Linkedin Scores Again

Here is a verbatim email sent to me this morning to join my linkedin network, which shows charm, nice writing, and the total usefulness of linkedin:

“I am mentioning Alan’s blog so I hope that means I am not a serial killer :). I liked your review about Linked In ‘Weakest Link’ and thought it was pretty much on target. The greatest thing I found on Linked In was that I was able to re-connect with my fraternity brothers and even found a few that are modest celebrities. Who knew?”

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