Author Archives: Alan Weiss

Guest Column: Flying High?

Flying High?  


Dr. Constance Dierickx


Constance Dierickx is a member of the Million Dollar Consulting® Mentor Hall of Fame and a Master Mentor.


What do Adam Silver, Bud Selig and Gary Bettman have in common with Roger Goodell? Each is at the top of their game as head of a major sports organization (NBA, MBL, NHL, and NFL) and each is vulnerable because they can’t know everything that goes on in it.


Flying at high altitudes, leaders gain perspective of one type and lose it in another. More challenging is the tendency for people who surround a leader to acquiesce or disagree so politely as to be overlooked. It isn’t easy to resist groupthink or the habits of ones own thinking, information gathering and decision-making.


Recent events, involving professional football players, have brought rightful attention to the issue of domestic violence and put Mr. Goodell on the spot. While the manifest issue is domestic violence, which deserves every ounce of forthrightness we can muster, questions about organizational culture must be asked. Cultures are so powerful they may distort otherwise good judgment, disincline people to act as they believe they should and pressure people to conform, defend, or disguise actions that should be dealt with swiftly and without equivocation.


The upside? Culture can be shaped to promote pro-social behavior, civility, and integrity as well. A healthy organizational culture is more likely to be associated with superior results (financial and other), innovation and customer satisfaction. The culture organizations will develop by intention or through evolution. Owners and stakeholders expect leaders to be intentional about it, not passive and certainly not apologetic when the culture is destructive. It cannot be a soft thing relegated to Human Resources.


Mr. Goodell, whether you think about the culture of the NLF or not, as the leader, it starts with you. Don’t accept excuses and don’t make any yourself. You, and every leader should have the courage to ask:


  1. Are my expectations about behavior clear?
  2. Am I an example of what I expect from others?
  3. Do we swiftly deal with behaviors contrary to what we say we value?
  4. Do I, unwittingly, assume that absence of scandal indicates all is well?
  5. How do I know if our organization has pushed aside or hidden matters that would embarrass us but have failed to do anything truly constructive?
  6. How do I handle people who hide things from me or other leaders because they are unpleasant or inconvenient?


A client with whom I worked for several years had the best definition I’ve ever heard about culture. He said, “it’s important because it is what will lead people to do the right thing when no one is looking.” Well said.


Dr. Constance Dierickx provides pragmatic advice to senior leaders resulting in dramatic growth, reduced risk and enhanced reputation.


© Constance Dierickx 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Hi, Neighbor

Occasionally, I’ll see someone doing something odd, like blocking traffic to stop to talk to someone. If I don’t recognize them, I tend to think, “Really a dumb move.” But if I know them, I just sit patiently figuring there’s a good reason.

We give people we know the benefit of the doubt because we are familiar with many aspects of their lives: children, jobs, residence, hobbies, relationships, family, possessions, and so on. With the exception of the familiar “pest,” we cut people slack.

I find many consultants immediately assume the buyer is the problem, the organization has communication difficulties, one of the leaders has political motives, the “schoolyard gossip” is accurate, and there are conspiracies against the project. That’s because they don’t know these people and assign malicious motives or inept abilities as their default position.

Get to know people before you psychoanalyze them. You might just find that the benefit of the doubt will create a benefit to your own intervention and results.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Konik’s Tail Vodka

I complained here about The Drink Shop in London completely unconcerned about my order for Konik’s Tail Vodka on its web site, because they couldn’t figure out from my address and email I live in the US. The owner of the Polish vodka company saw my blog, and evidently gave The Drink Shop hell. (“This is unacceptable. I’m trying to sell my vodka!”)

Today, someone from The Drink Shop called and said my vodka was on the way. Hell hath no fury like a businessman scorned by intermediaries who cut into his margins!

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Dumb Ass Stupid Management: FedEx

FedEx should use the postal service. They misrouted our luggage going to Palm Beach, then confirmed a return pickup on Saturday and simply did not show up. That’s right: They had the confirmation number but the truck never arrived. The Four Seasons had them pick the luggage up today for same-day delivery, by this evening. Knowing FedEx, they will ignore my refusal to pay for this, and dun me for the payments, I will then call their corporate headquarters, where a nice person in the executive offices will have to overrule the people in the field and on the phones who simply don’t care.

The people working for FedEx in the Boca/Deerfield/Palm Beach area have clearly been out in the sun too  long.

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Jet Blue(s)

Jet Blue flight 722 at 10 am today out of Palm Beach to Boston. I open the tray table between my wife and me and it’s filthy. I ask the male flight attendant if he has something to clean it. He returns and wordlessly throws two wet-naps on the tray and leaves! Later, when he’s collecting empty glasses, he says, “You’ll have to return your tray table to the upright position,” but doesn’t touch a thing, as if we should take the stuff home.

What next, do passengers clean the lavatory?

I only fly Jet Blue because it has a nonstop between Boston and Palm Beach and I can tolerate their lack of first class by taking their “extra space” option, but just barely. Prior, the service has been excellent and on time.

But this guy was an arrogant ass.

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Thought Leadership Conference

We had a fifth consecutive year of sold-out crowd at Thought Leadership at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. James Carville was my special guest. Twenty-eight consultants from seven countries gathered for three days of intensive interaction to build dominance in markets, create new books, generate new intellectual property, and meet global leaders.

Next year’s session with my special guest, the Master of Influence, Robert Cialdini, can be found here—I have only seven seats left:


2014-09-23 14.16.56 copy2014-09-23 15.57.01 copy2014-09-23 14.15.34 copy(Photos courtesy of Chad Barr)

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The Ragin’ Cajun

James Carville was my guest yesterday at my annual Thought Leadership Conference at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. He is a fast-talking, straight-shooting guy who goes full bore, start to finish, and he joined us for dinner, as well.

I asked him why Barak Obama, elected amid speeches between Doric Columns and Greek Porticos, with a rock star excitement in the audience, is now shunned by members of his own party seeking reelection in states he originally carried. James said that most candidates promise that they’ll work within the system to create change, but Obama claimed he would change Washington and the way it worked. But no one is about to change Washington, so he failed in his primary promise.

Sometimes we all think there’s a better cosmos to superimpose on the current one. But I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from John Dewey, I believe: “Saints engage in lofty introspection while burly sinners run the world.” With our clients, we need to seek pragmatic change within their own reality, and not seek to implement an idealistic, theoretical new construct.



(Photo courtesy of Richard Citrin.)

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Doorman

The first and last impression you have in most top-flight hotels is created by the doorman. He greets you, often relays to the desk that you’re approaching for check-in so that you can be welcomed by name, and then packs your bags in a car and wishes you well when you checkout. In the interim he greets you and holds the door every time you depart and return. He has a great deal to do with how you enter and leave that hotel experience. He’s not the highest paid employee, but he has a huge impact.

Who are the “doormen” for your business? Are you paying attention to the hiring and nurturing of those people who form first and last impressions? I’ve met too many restaurant hostesses with zero personality, and too many bank tellers who are bored to tears, to think that all organizations pay close attention to these crucial interactions.

Find your “doormen” and make sure they add significantly to the customer experience and aren’t detracting from it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Drink Shop: Dumb Ass Stupid Management

There’s a place on the web called The Drink Shop that advertises “liquor distributed worldwide.” So I ordered a vodka through their quite confusing site.

I received an email today stating that, since I didn’t fill in my country, they were canceling the order from a week ago. Apparently, “Rhode Island 02818″ wasn’t sufficient when I missed yet another box. Yet they had both my phone number and email, and they had the time to write me to tell me this instead of merely confirming I’m in the US and filling the order. And this took them a week. When I pointed that out, they wrote back a second time to say, in effect, too bad, that’s the way it is.

Drucker said that the purpose of a business is to have a customer. It seems to me you get customers by providing reasonable service, not by making them jump through hoops or demanding your web site forms be perfectly completed when the intent is otherwise obvious.

I’ll say this: The Drink Shop can drive you to drink.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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University Dermatology: We May Be Rude, But We’re Also Slow

On August 28 I posted here the story of horrible service in a medical practice when I was trying to change an appointment. That changed appointment finally occurred yesterday, or almost did. These people deserve the Dumb-Ass Stupid Management Award of the Month, with a tin Caduceus.

I showed up at Miriam Hospital in Providence to visit University Dermatology for my annual checkup. That medical practice is owned by a group of physicians. My appointment was for 10:15 and I pulled up to the valet at 10:00, and saw my dermatologist walk past me. I said, “Good morning,” but she seemed distracted and uninterested, and we took the same elevator to the second floor.

It took me ten minutes to check in while several of us just waited for the lone woman on the job to compete a raft of paperwork. During that time, patient files with names on them—including mine—were clearly visible on her desk for anyone to see. I was finally checked in and took a seat at 10:15, expecting to be called quickly. At 10:30, there was nothing happening, so I asked someone what the delay was. I was told to go to another window as a man said, “Let me know what you find, I have a 10 o’clock appointment.”

But how could that be, if the doctor walked in at 10?

I returned to the same paper-bound woman and she agreed to make a call, during which she found I’d have to wait at least another 30-40 minutes. I told her that wasn’t going to happen. Apparently, either the doctor was very late arriving or the practice simply books far too many people to meet any kind of promised schedule. She had at least six patients backed up in various rooms at 10:30 before my college with the 10 am appointment.

This is a practice where the women in Rhode Island Hospital, their other site, often eat while they are talking to you, or chat among themselves while people wait to check in or out. There is only one woman in Miriam handling the chaos, and she’s clearly overwhelmed. But this is medicine from the “old school”: We’re the ones whose time is important, and you can just wait until we’re good and ready.

I asked a dermatologist once what attracted her to that specialty. She said, “There are no emergency calls in the middle of the night.” That seems a strange criterion to choose your role in medicine. It also seems that there isn’t exactly great urgency during the day, either.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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