Duke’s President Offers Actionable Philosophy for Life and Work

Credit: Duke University.

Credit: Duke University.

It was a really pragmatic gift, but maybe tough to appreciate at age 18.

In his welcoming comments to the Class of 2019, Duke University President Richard Brodhead dispensed some wise philosophy.  He encouraged the new students to adopt a set of profound and powerful life and work ideas that are applicable to all of us.

Brodhead’s address, titled Building a Life at Duke, was themed off the massive construction and renovation underway on campus.  It provided an apt metaphor for his message.

I’ve culled and organized Four Key Takeaways.

1.  Expect Change & Embrace Where It Can Take You

If you want to make room for a new, improved version of yourself, you will have to tolerate some disruption— of your personal habits, of your preexisting networks, even of assumptions that once seemed certain. Disruption is not fun, but it is the opener of possibilities.

> I agree about the importance of disruption as a positive change enabler.  Focus on where it will take you.  It may be more fun than you think. Continue reading

9 Thought-Provoking Leadership & Personal Growth Ideas for 2013

As we close 2012 and enter 2013, many of us will take stock of how we’re doing as marketing and business leaders, and perhaps in our personal lives as well.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a few thought-provoking ideas from my recent reading, including from Jeff Bezos and Clayton Christensen, that resonated with me and could prove valuable to you.  While they’re mostly for your professional consideration, you may also find some personal overlap.   I’ve organized these ideas into nine categories for easy processing.

Good luck and Happy New Year.


1.  Figure Out How To Get Real Feedback & Input. 

A.  Doug Parker – CEO of US Airways

I try really hard now to have forums that allow employees to talk to me, rather than me being in front of 1,000 people. Four times a month, I put myself in a room with 30 or 40 pilots and flight attendants, and I talk for 10 minutes; they talk for 50 (emphasis added). It’s not just listening out of respect — you can’t imagine how much better you can do your job when you operate this way. When you’re leading a big organization like an airline, there’s a whole lot you can miss, so you have to start by listening to people. Then you can decide what the right course is.  (Source: Fortune)

B.  David Boies – Superlawyer, founder of Boies Schiller & Flexner

Anyone who’s worth talking to is worth listening to.  (Source: Fortune) Continue reading

You Can Do It – Kipling’s Prescription for Success

I was recently introduced to Kipling’s “If” poem, and its theme is apropos for my last post of 2011.

So, I’ll spare you the predictions and Top 10 lists that you can get everywhere else.  Instead, watch this short video and draw out what makes sense for you in your professional and personal life about perseverance, leadership, inspiration, and as my Little League baseball coach Mr. Jim Ake used to preach, The Three Ds:  dedication, desire and determination.

Best wishes for a healthy and terrific 2012.


Don’t wait until the end of each year to engage in a bit of personal assessment and introspection.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

Be A Leader-Coach

Music fans will recognize this rhetorical question from the opening refrain of the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime:  And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?

What’s the connection between lyrics from a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band and marketing, you say?  Read on.

There’s more to great marketing than strategic thinking, creativity and terrific execution.  Of course, you need all those components to be successful.  But to truly differentiate yourself and the ability of your company to win in the marketplace, you need a great team.  And great teams require great leadership and coaching.

So, at some point this summer, whether you’re lying on the beach, relaxing at a backyard barbecue or otherwise taking a few contemplative moments to yourself, stop and think about the people who made a significant difference in your career.  And then reflect and ask yourself:  are you putting enough emphasis on coaching and leading the key members of your marketing and business team?

Fortune magazine recently had a special section where influential businesspeople, personalities and public leaders were asked to talk about the “best advice I ever got.”  Here are five answers that I think are especially pertinent for great marketers.

  •  Jim Sinegal – Co-founder and CEO, Costco Wholesale

” Sol [company founder Sol Price] taught me that a good manager must also be a good teacher.  A lot of very bright people lose sight of that.”

Insight:  Coaching is part of your job.

  • Tiger Woods, Professional Golfer

“My dad [Earl Woods] would say, Okay, where do you want to hit the ball?  I’d pick a spot and say I want to hit it there.  He’d shrug and say, Fine, then figure out how to do it.”

Insight:  Positive action is more important than excessive deliberation.

  • Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State and Retired Four-Star General

“You won’t become a general unless you become a good first lieutenant.”

Insight:  Learn the business inside-out, outside-in, and across functions.

  • Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google

” [My coach Bill Campbell’s] general advice has been to rise one step higher, above the person on the other side of the table, and to take the long view.  He’ll say, You’re letting it bother you.  Don’t.”

Insight:  The other guy might be right or have valuable input; and learn to roll with it.

  • Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, CEO-in-Residence, Accel Partners

“His [former boss at Merrill Lynch] advice to me was to work exceptionally hard and step up from day one, despite being junior.  In the first three to four months that you’re in a job, you can create positive or negative momentum.”

Insight:  Titles and seniority don’t matter.  Good ideas, initiative and successful action matter more.


Most of us have probably benefited from some timely and wise guidance at a key point during our careers.  Sometimes, the learning comes from observing what not to do or noting how to handle a situation better when it’s your turn.  The best performers understand that learning never ends, which fuels their constant improvement.  They also intuitively understand the need to give back.

By the way, the last line of Once in a Lifetime – “Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was…” – is thought-provoking as well.  You and your team have the ability to directly influence what happens next, and if you want a different outcome, take the advice of Earl Woods:  Figure out how to do it!


Help a member of your team or a key colleague “get there.”  Good things happen when you surround yourself with talented people, but that’s just the beginning.  While it’s your job to set the stage and direction for the team to be successful, it takes a lot more to be a great manager and leader.   It takes the acknowledgment that you want to do it, the commitment to regularly work at it, and then the wherewithal to actually do it well.  Even the best people need a word of encouragement or a bit of advice here and there.  Focus on the development and cohesive power of your marketing team, including yourself, and watch the business results roll in!

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.