Thanksgiving and Publishing

It used to be that nothing ever happened in the publishing business Thanksgiving week. For all the years I can remember this was a “dead” week.  It was so quiet that we were lucky if half the editors showed up at their desks.

Well, times have changed. 

turkeyThanks to a continuing lackluster economy, editors and other publishing professionals simply cannot afford to take the week off.  Most publishers are having a really tough year, and they need to show the brass that they understand the severity of the situation, and are doing everything in their power to make 2010 a much better year. But that is no simple task either, because the vast majority of books publishers acquire now will not make it in 2010—instead they will spill over into 2011.  Also, there are fewer people left to do all the work at most publishing houses. 

That is why editors are at their desks this week in record numbers. I know because I am doing a lot of business this week with a number of editors and publishers. And something tells me that next year will be no different. Now we have to wait and see if people show up between Christmas and New Year’s. That has always been the “deadest” week of the year in all of publishing.

Here is wishing you and your families a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I know I have a great deal to be thankful for this year—and will be sure to take nothing for granted.

Dow 10,000: A Sign of Things to Come?

Many people did not think we would see the Dow Jones Industrials—consisting of 30 bell-weather stocks—would reach 10,000 so fast.  In March of this year, the Dow slipped to a multi-year low of about 6,500, a horrible and frightening drop from our all time high of 14,000 achieved in late 2007.

wall-street-image1However, while many on Wall Street are celebrating the milestone, the majority of those on Main Street are still hurting.  In recent weeks I have spoken to cab and limo drivers in Boston, New York and Washington (people who drive other people know everything about the economy).  According to them business is still hurting and there are no signs of that turning around anytime soon. Also, unemployment is at a 26-year high, at over 10 percent. And the weekly jobless claims remained unchanged this week, with new workers filing for unemployment still topping the half a million mark (505,000).

Does that mean there is no hope? No, but at present we are getting mixed signals. Taken together, I think it means that a meaningful recovery that will help people of all stripes and industries is still months away at best. The stock market is a forward looking indicator. There is usually an eight to ten month lag between the stock market and what happens in the overall economy.  In addition, corporate earnings have been pretty strong, with the majority of companies beating their quarterly expectations.

I am a glass-half-full kind of guy, and given the success of my relatively new publishing business (find it at, I have that luxury. I believe things will get better by the first or second quarter of 2010, but I do not believe that we will see a sharp reversal in the unemployment rate.  Companies are adjusting, learning to do more with less. As a result, most companies are not rushing to hire people back. But expectations are so low that I expect stronger Christmas sales than most are prognosticating, and who knows…maybe that will carry so9me good cheer into the new year.

In any event, time will tell. But what the Dow is telling us is that some type of help is on the way.  So while it is still really tough, hang in there. If you are without a job, widen your search to include the kind of jobs that at first blush you might not readily think of as being for you.  Perhaps just getting out there in the workplace again might make all the difference in your outlook and your future prospects.

The 4E’s of Leadership: Still the Best Management Model

Long before The Unforced Error, there was one of the best management models I have ever learned. In fact, it was the subject of an entire book entitled JACK WELCH AND THE 4E’S OF LEADERSHIP and it turned out to be one of those quiet classics that still sells today—five years after its original publication.


That’s because this management model is timeless and works in any kind of organization, of any size. It’s also a simple model that anyone could grasp quickly (although the detail in my book helps to make this model  operational in no time). First let’s define the 4E’s:

Energy: People with energy go 75-miles-per-hour in a 55-mile-per-hour world.  People rich in this “E” jump out of bed in the morning ready to take on all challengers. They need no caffeine to operate at peak performance.   

Energize: Energizers articulate a vision and then get others to turn that vision into a reality.  They spark others to perform. They take the blame when things go wrong but give others the credit when things go well.

Edge:  People with Edge know how to make tough decisions. They know when to say yes and when to say no. They avoid the maybes. These solid decision-makers are more valuable than ever due to the turbulent times in which we do business.  

Execute: At first there were only the three “Es” above.  But GE discovered that some managers who were rich in the E’s above still did not make their financial targets. That’s when the fourth “E” was added. Managers who possess this “E” get things done. They make all of their commitments and make their numbers.  

Those are the E’s.  If you are an employee or a manager, you should work toward improving your “E” quotient. If you are a hiring manager, look for people who have these traits. If you want to learn how to put them to work in your organization—and you will forgive the self-promotion—get your hands on the only book that explains how to implement this model step-by-step—Jack Welch and the 4E’s of Leadership.

Identify those Who Control Your Destiny

Who really controls your future? If you work in a large organization, can you really be sure that it is your boss? Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s your boss’s boss, or your boss’s boss’s boss? I have worked in large companies and learned only after several years that it was my boss’s boss that called all the shots. My boss would take every key decision to his boss, and she would make the final call. But because all of this was happening behind-the-scenes, I was in the dark for a very long time about what was really happening.

hand holding marionette control barAnd sometimes the answer to “who controls my future?” cannot be found by searching straight up the  corporate hierarchy.  Perhaps your boss seeks out the opinions of your peers to learn about you and and  “dirt” related to your performance. This is definitely unprofessional at best, and a bit sick at worst. As I describe in The Unforced Error, the most effective managers search out and build on his people’s strengths. The manager that does the opposite, by trying to sniff out anything negative about you, is insecure and immature and does not deserve the position that he has been entrusted with. If you learn that your boss is engaging in that type of activity, discreetly update your resume and try to find another job (perhape when the job market is stronger). Otherwise, you may get sucked up into a dysfunctional situation that leaves you hating your job.

Make Sure to See the Whole Court

Continuing with the tennis analogy employed in THE UNFORCED ERROR, as in tennis, people in business need to be sure they have a clear view of the court at all times.

Aerial view of empty tennis courts

When I say the whole court, I mean the entire playing field that serves as the backdrop to our jobs and careers. When I go out and speak to groups, I warn them about getting tunnel vision or “cubicle vision.” I tell them that it is not enough just to see what is going on in their own departments.  They need to see what is going on with their unit, different parts of the company, competitors, the operating environment, etc. Only then can you get a clear picture of how well you and your company are doing, and more important, only then can you take meaningful steps to make things better. In these very tough times, with a national unemployment rate hovering at about ten percent, few of us can ill-afford to be caught off guard by a situation that we simply did not know about because we were too lazy to do our due diligence.

For example,  say you work in the marketing department of a food and beverage company. You get good performance reviews, and morale in your department is fine. However, what you are not aware of is that parts of the sales department is in ruins. The company laid off 20 percent of the department because sales for the  Eastern region fell off a cliff. As a result, the company is going to have to make job cuts across the board, which includes your department. Had you known, you might have stepped up your game knowing what was at stake; and you could have been better prepared to search for a new job knowing that yours was on the line. In this extreme scenario, you would have  to be a real ostrich to get caught this much off guard. But this stuff happens every day in organizations.

Most other situations are a bit more subtle. For example, you may be a salesperson in that same company and not know that your biggest customer is in real trouble, endangering the business that you do with them. Their sales make up more than 15 percent of your [individual] total sales budget, so not knowing that they may shut down their doors could also cost you your job.  That example isn’t all that subtle either, but you get the idea. 

When things are as tough as they are now, with unemployment rates so high, you must constantly work without blinders. The risk for failing to do so is simply too high.

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