Monday, May 11, 2009

After Receiving Bailout with Taxpayer’s Money, GM is Moving Jobs Overseas

While our U.S. government is pouring billions into GM hoping to revive our economy here in the U.S. - if you look at where the money is going and who will be making these new cars, you begin to realize, it isn’t here. The new plants and jobs will be filled by autoworkers overseas, mainly in Mexico, China and South Korea, to be sold here in the US. This is the growing pains of a global economy as our own companies have to move out of the United States to become profitable, while selling our stuff back to us. On top of that, we will be paying tariffs on those same goods.

View original article here:

Now I am all for globalization. I think we as a country have been isolated for far too long. Only 5% of American’s have passports. But, as a nation, we are just not encouraged to get out and see the world. And I can understand why…we have a hell of a lot to see here at home. My problem is the way globalization has been handled here at "home."

In the US we lost 13 million jobs over the past year in shrinking sectors like construction and finance. Yet we’ve had 3 million new jobs created in expanding sectors with no one to fill them – they are still open and available. Why?

The skill sets from the shrinking sectors are NOT aligning with the skill sets of the expanding sectors. Healthcare is one of them. Imagine pouring concrete for 10 years and then learning how to be an X-Ray technician overnight. Skill sets need to align.

How? We need to retrain people in order to repurpose them.

And that’s my big gripe - Baby Boomers were never prepared for this shift to a global marketplace and the death of the Industrial Age. Since most of us are unsure of where we are going as a country, many hold on to the old ways of thinking and working. We were raised on a steady diet of John Wayne movies, “America is always the hero” history books, and a solipsistic approach to world politics, and what you get is an entire generation suffering from what Tim Davis calls Adult Resistance Learning. Our culture is physically trained to resist change.

We are waiting for the “jobs” to return. This is something we can no longer afford to do.

First the idea of a job has changed. Companies understand it is better to have a freelance, seasonal workforce than to be paying so much in salaries, benefits and sick pay. Consultants pay their own healthcare, taxes and retirement. Responsibility is shifting to the individual.

Knowledge hording is something that allowed us Boomers to gain status and move into the corner office. Today knowledge hording is a detriment to ones career as keeping up with the amount of knowledge out there becomes impossible. It is doubling every 72 hours. Hording knowledge becomes a ball and chain especially when learning new software. So having a team of up-to-date knowledge seekers becomes paramount to your career.

As entire sectors shrink, and those “jobs” move overseas, many of us will have to change careers. Auto workers may lose their pensions and retirement benefits (just as former Enron employees did), despite all the bailouts. Case In Point: pension obligations are so huge at Ford, if they sold ALL their assets as well as all the inventory of cars, they would have only a small percentage of their pension obligations. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Retraining & repurposing people needs to happen now. As Alvin & Heidi Toffler pointed out almost 40 years ago in their book Future Shock…“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Just look into market sectors that are expanding and ask yourself “Do I need to get Trained for That Job?” If the answer is yes, then I suggest you get trained now.

Also start listening to Generation Y. They are also called Millennial’s and they’ve been trained in the global marketplace. With a completely different set of skills - they were raised to have higher self esteem, entrepreneurial skills and a voracious appetite for technology…while children! They are prepared for globalization…we Boomers sad to say, were not. But we can make up for lost time by letting go of opinions and start listening and get retrained. Unlearn and relearn all that you hold on to.

Look, it is going to get ugly as jobs leave the US by the millions - this recession is far from over despite Bernanke’s crystal ball. After all, if Bernanke was a sharp as every one thinks, he would have predicted this recession/depression before it happened. So I am not going to put any faith that our economy will recover in 2009. Instead I am a realist.

Corporations are looking for the cheapest way to get things done and use technology to automate as much as they possibly can. It is not a good or a bad thing. It is the bloody transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Horse & Buggy manufacturers didn’t completely disappear 100 years ago, their sector just shrank. So, keep in the back of your head the fact that someday the factory of the future will be completely automated. So do you want to continue working in a factory or do you want to get trained to repair all those robotic welders?

Dare I say the latter is a cooler job.

Thank you for reading,

Brad Szollose

Need Executive Coaching? How about an executive coach with executive experience? Send an email to brad at bradszollose dot com. We look forward to hearing from you.

May I suggest: Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. It will amaze you how much he and wife Heidi were able to predict about today’s world.

Friday, May 8, 2009

5 Leadership Keys I Have Learned From the Martial Arts

At 45, through some serious prompting from my wife's 17-year old nephew, Sebastian, I decided to do something that most people my age would find a little risky - I enrolled in Shaolin Kempo Karate. Imagine a middle-aged, white belt with a propensity to be on the husky side (my Mom's words, not mine) and a sense of adventure standing amongst serious athletes ranging in age from 16 all the way up to 35.

A little bit intimidating to say the least, but I have a lifelong appreciation for the Martial Arts dating back to my first Bruce Lee movie. In the early 70s I was able to see them in an actual theater, and never missed an episode of Kung Fu. My father and I didn't bond over baseball or football, we watched David Carradine wander through the Old American West. If you are my age, you are probably thinking, yes I remember Kung Fu. But why in the hell would you want to enroll in an MMA class at your age?

Either that or you are thinking I am like John Favreau when appearing on Friends announced to Courtney Cox (after buying her a "ring") that he wanted to be an Ultimate Fighter. Happy to say, I am not that delusional.

The answer is simple: to me life is an adventure - to be explored, to learn from and to experience. As Dylan Thomas said ... "do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." And no matter how many years I have on planet earth, I plan on always kicking it up a notch. Life is meant to be lived.

But surprisingly, entering a Dojo taught me so much more than learning how to pummel my opponent - it taught me some serious leadership lessons that I would like to share. It is about discipline and persistence. It is about giving 100% every time. So here goes...

1. Leadership Focuses On a Singular Vision
The big hot button these days is Change Management, yet Jim Collins in his ground breaking book Good to Great points out that Level 5 Leaders do not focus on change - they focus on the goals for the vision they've established.

In Karate we learn that no matter how impossible something may seem today, we are given glimpses from the Masters as to what is possible in each of us. There are no multiple directions or agendas, just one goal. They hold in their consciousness a very powerful singular vision for become a Black Belt.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be able to flip a 250 pound man with ease I would have told you, you're dreaming. Yet over time, with enough technique and the guidance of those that have gone ahead of me, I too have learned that all things are possible.

As a leader, you just need to point the way and set up the training to get everyone believing they can get there as well. It's not magic it's a form of coaching. But a leader's vision must be believable to be achievable and most importantly, engaging to your people on an emotional level. With out vision there is no direction and without a direction, the next 4 Leadership Keys are a waste of time.

So when shaping a vision, ask yourself ...will this vision be as exciting to others as it is to me? Is it a worthwhile trip to make? Is this something that is long term or short term? Asking serious questions will bring about a very serious and exciting vision for your company. After all, people who are fired up about something are unstoppable.

2. Leadership is About Alignment
When first entering a Dojo beginners like myself, are shown the basics, then paired up with an opponent. Usually this is someone who isn't too much more advanced and this is done for 2 reasons: First the slightly more advanced student is encouraged to teach what they know so far, to pass on their knowledge base, while at the same time getting a challenging workout from a newbie. Eventually, the class rotates and a new comer gets to work with higher ranks including Black Belts.

I've been a part of this same type of training in the pharmaceutical industry for over 25 years. An experienced sales rep sits in training sessions with newer less seasoned reps to pass on their knowledge and seasoned sales experience. Teaching what you know will make the subject an innate part of your subconscious mind while immersing your students into the nuances of the business. Q&A is encouraged. This type of mentorship training assures that every individual in an organization is aligned with the same vision, purpose and abilities while opening up the lines of communication for individual improvement. It is the dynamics of a 1:1 mentorship and training program that will help your organization achieve alignment.

But remember, this type of training is not about training from the top of an organization down - it's about training from the bottom up - a plus factor in today's competitive market. Total alignment to a company's mission needs to be on everyone's mind from the mail room to the board room.

I have a theory that Management is The Last To Know® because they are in the habit of commanding rather than listening. Listening and respecting the fact that people on the front lines of your company just might know the business better than the top executives is scary to most - especially after years of business schooling. But don't let hubris stand in the way...your sales reps on the front lines everyday in the center of the action may understand the forces changing your industry. They see what, when and why changes take place sometimes years before the board of directors can see it.

Remember your history - the greatest generals listened to their soldiers on the front lines with candor and emotional intelligence. Your job as a leader is to not react to the information you are getting from the front lines of your business but to create a strategy that will win the day and get everyone on board. Aligning everybody in an organization in the same direction is like looking down the shaft of an arrow. It is focused and in line with the target. Simple huh?

3. Leadership Sets Simple, Achievable Goals
It can be intimidating to see a Black Belt jump up in the air and kick over someone's head, but most of us understand that with enough time, dedication and training, you too can be doing these amazing feats of agility. As we say in the martial arts, "A Black Belt is a White Belt who never gave up."

Fear and intimidation melt away replaced with knowledge and technique. By setting small achievable goals for teams as well as individuals, an organization will become a place where talent is encouraged and developed. Since your vision is emotionally engaging from Leadership Key #1, everything your organization does will stem from the singular goal. By developing and encouraging people you are nurturing a productive environment.

When employees find their workplace challenging they don't want to leave. Goal setting is a start at retaining talent and by setting small achievable goals, many will not notice but over time, those small goals add up to very large achievements. A journey of a thousand steps begins with the first step.

4. Leadership is About Picking and Nurturing Talent
In any organization eventually someone will stand out for their natural abilities. A leader's job is to keep watch for the best and the brightest and pave the way for their future. In Karate the Sensei looks to see your strength and weaknesses. One may be strong in kicking abilities because of their long legs, while someone with shorter legs is better suited for strikes and grappling. This is an individual thing.

Same within an organization. A friend of mine who is a small business owner, realized that one of his top employees, although hired to give presentations, wasn't very good at people skills. He could talk all that tech talk, but he couldn't feel out the direction a meeting was taking and therefore missed a lot of cues to finish up or make his presentation more exciting. Yet he was an integral part of the team.

What my friend began to see was this young man was an incredible writer and decided to re-purpose him for proposals. He didn't eliminate him from pitch meetings he just nurtured his innate abilities - which coincidentally enabled the company to land larger projects.

Spotting and nurturing talent is essential to your organizations health. But don't get bogged down at what you "think" of an individual - look at the skills they bring to the table...skills they may not realize they have. Try to re-purpose people according to their natural abilities.

Bad leaders are threatened by talented individuals. Over time, unbeknownst to themselves, they make the road harder for their employees. Many in the workforce may quit, only to have amazing careers somewhere else, while the dysfunctional leader can't understand why they did so well at another company.

On the other hand, evolved leaders don't make the way easier, but provide the knowledge, the training and point out the stepping stones along the way. These types of leaders are secure in their positions and welcome new talent with open arms, knowing that with enough time, training and experience, this individual deserves to stand in the same winners circle. They respect each and every individual's contribution to their organization.

I'd like to point out something else that I've learned from the Martial Arts - women are treated as equals in the Dojo, just as capable of achieving the same ranks as men. There is nothing that will get that across easier than the first time you face a female Black Belt. I remember lying on the ground looking up wondering what just happened. The training is the same, and the expectations are the same.

To some, this may be intimidating. To the women at my Dojo, it has made them strong and confident. Business could learn a thing or two about equality from the martial arts.

People don't leave bad companies; they leave companies with bad management. Be an evolved leader, it saves a lot of time and energy, and helps retain your best talent.

5. Leadership Rewards Those That Earn It
I recently passed a belt test. It was grueling as usually - 2 hours of intense cardio, testing on skills and knowledge of combinations, grappling, sparring and take downs. It is designed to break you mentally and physically. But when you pass, you are rewarded with your next rank. But I also began to realize that if a Sensei is watching closely over time, and monitors your progress properly, then no one is picked for a belt test unless they are ready for the next rung of responsibility.

In other words, before someone takes the physical test, the Sensei notices that they are operating at that level already. No one receives something they haven't earned in the Martial Arts. If you hand out trophies for every little thing, then those awards become meaningless. When someone achieves a promotion the hard way (by earning it), there is no doubt or favoritism.

Recently I read an article where most employees don't care about making a million dollars...they just want recognition for their contributions. By rewarding those that earn their way and reach their goals, a leader creates a sense of healthy competition that can kick your organization up to another level. It doesn't have to be fancy - a monetary award, or a plaque for best problem solver or more responsibility and a raise. Rewarding those that earn their way is part of nurturing talent.

None of these 5 Leadership Keys are even possible without one last secret: and that is an environment where it is safe to tell the truth. Not bickering or back-biting but an environment where someone can stand up in the middle of the room and tell it like it is... "It isn't the recession that hurt us, it is that fact that we don't make exciting, innovative products anymore" or "we haven't listened and responded to what our customers are telling us they want." 

We aren't managing in a vacuum, and as the global economy gets bumpy, it becomes tempting to return to the old ways of management - but keeping the lines of communication open and nurturing an environment of truth is far more important than hierarchy and micro-management. It is easy to run a company during an era of prosperity, but the real business warriors can manage in any environment.

Two years ago I attended my nephew Sebastian's pre-Black Belt exam over. There were 10 people who were being considered...yet at the end of the evening it was apparent that one young man was not ready, and he was pulled aside to face the truth. It wasn't personal, it wasn't because he didn't know his stuff. It was the truth...he wasn't operating at the level of a Black Belt. He knew what he was doing it's just that his movements were labored as if he was trying to remember each combination for the first time.

The unusual part is the 3 Masters and 4 Sensei's present didn't discount him from the exam. Instead they laid out a course of action. The test wasn't for another 2 months, so if he worked hard, the goal might be in his grasp.

2 months later there he stood alongside my nephew, a Black Belt around his waste and tears in his eyes. He did it because he had a vision, spent 5 years aligning himself to that vision, with the right teachers to nurture him and small achievable goals, he was rewarded with the rank of Black Belt.

But now the real work begins as first through fifth degrees of Black Belt status means one must train with a different energy and discipline. He is now a leader...a teacher...a role model. Just like in business. Masters are the Board of Directors and Black Belts are like the executives in an organization...looking for those that want to stand in the winners circle.

Ironically the Martial Arts aren't so much about fighting as they are about discipline and balance of mind, body and spirit. The same within your organization. If the body of your company is out of balance, in other words, you are not retaining talent, then your company is going nowhere fast. If the spirit is off, as in morale, then your company isn't going to move forward as well. If the mind is not functioning, or the knowledge isn't being shared, then a company has no direction.

There are some experiences I cannot put into words, but if you follow my 5 Keys I believe you too can achieve a Black Belt in leadership.

Join a Dojo near you and see what I am talking about.

Thank you for reading,

Brad Szollose

Brad Szollose is the author of Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia – Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing The Way We Run Things 

For more info, or coaching, go to

Former Dot Com IPO Boomer Brad Szollose, is an award winning leadership strategist, author and professional speaker who shows executives and entrepreneurs how to operate in the Information Age.
Come see the gang from my Dojo on Facebook at

Brad Szollose Bio:


Who Is Brad Szollose?: 

Cofounder of Another Big Production. Host of Awakened Nation™. Award-Winning Author. Creative Director. Leader. Visionary. TEDxSpeaker. Web Pioneer. C-Level Executive.

First things, first. How do you say Szollose?
It’s pronounced zol-us.

From founding partner and CMO of K2 Design, Inc. the first Digital Agency to go public on NASDAQ to international leadership development expert, Brad Szollose has worked with household names like MasterCard, American Management Association and Tony Robbins, to create leadership training programs for a new generation.

As an award-winning creative director, he has been the creative force behind hundreds of high-end corporate events, personal and consumer brands, and website launches. Brad is the recipient of the Corporate Identity Design Award and the Axiom Business Book Award along with various awards for website and print design.

As a C-Level executive at K2, his unique management model was awarded the Arthur Andersen New York Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation Amongst Employees (Workforce Culture).

Today, the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on next-generation leadership development, branding and modern Management Strategies, and he has been featured (both print and online versions) in Forbes, Inc., Advertising Age, USA Today, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, International Business Times, Le Journal du Dimanche (France), and The Hindu Business Line to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CGTN America, CBS, Roku Network and other media outlets.

Brad continues to challenge the status quo with his new book, Liquid Leadership 2.0, and his new podcast, Awakened Nation.

After 35 years in New York City, he now calls Las Vegas home. In his free time, he enjoys hiking in the mountains, working Star Trek and Dune quotes into everyday conversation, and painting and drawing the stunning landscapes of the American Southwest.