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  • Joe

He has freeze vision, not heat.

He has flame breath, not ice.

He can see short distances behind him, not long distances ahead.

He is an ugly, chalky white monster, not a handsome, perfect male specimen.

He uses all his power for evil intent, not for truth, justice and the American way.


He is Bizarro. And we need him.


Of course, we do. How would we ever truly appreciate the value that Superman brings if we never would experience the horror of Bizarro? And if not Bizarro, then any one of the other supervillains that the Man of Steel routinely battles and ultimately conquers so we can get back to our happy, “normal” lives.



Ahhhh. Now you see where I’m going.


We are getting one hell of an extreme kick in the ass. The unprecedented sickness, death, social isolation, job loss, lifestyle uncertainty, governmental conflict, etc., that we are experiencing are shaking the world like never before. And don’t even get me started on the lack of toilet paper, unruly hairstyles, evil looks when approaching someone’s invisible six-foot barrier and relationship challenges when you can’t see someone live and in person.


I don’t see my kids as much as I used to. It makes sense not to shuttle them back and forth like we did before. Tuesday night dinners are now just a setting for one and there is zero activity on every other weekend. I used to get a bit of anxiety on those weekends when we would just sit around with just the TV, computer and iPad. But now I wouldn’t mind sitting around, just being together, no matter what we are doing. So now, we shoot each other messages throughout the day (if your kids are like mine, texting is the much-preferred method of communication) but nothing is like presence. When we get back to our biweekly routine, I am sure we will enjoy the time much more than we might have before. I wonder why?


I haven’t seen my parents in months. They are on Staten Island and stuck inside. Fortunately, they are doing well (Italians tend to have a good deal of food in the house and Mom is a great cook). Before all this, we would usually talk every Sunday. Now we talk every day. Just to check-in and share the events, no matter how minimal, of the day. Mom and I swap recipes while Dad and I discuss the news and suggest movies to each other. We make each other laugh and it’s a great part of the day. We never did that before. I wonder why?


Looking for a new career is a real treat. Many companies have significantly reduced, or even eliminated, their hiring budgets. No surprise there. But this will turn around and the opportunities will come roaring back. Some will be different as business models will all change to some degree. I have been refining what I am looking for in terms of roles, firms, and people. This time has pushed me to re-assess my priorities yet again. I wonder why?


So, without minimizing the horrible impacts that we have all felt (and some have felt it much more horribly than others), maybe, in some very weird way, we needed this kick in the ass.


To reassess what is truly important to us. To reconnect with others for whom we were always too busy. To value the challenges and achievements that come with our career, or to realize that we have only this one life to pursue the career that we always wanted. To be more comfortable in letting others know how we feel. To really appreciate the little things that we have taken for granted for way too long (and yes, I even mean full shelves at the store and a trip to the barber).


Maybe, in some very weird way, this world will be much better when this is all said and done.


How bizarre.


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  • Joe

The sun was so bright, and the sky so blue, when I woke up today. But I knew today was going to be “one of those days” that are sprinkled throughout our lives. Kind of reminded me of a couple of other sunny, blue-sky days.


Like that Tuesday in September 2001. It was such a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. Coming off of a three-day weekend, I was scheduled to deliver a presentation to the Partners of my firm on future consulting opportunities. I was ready and loaded extra copies into my briefcase for the 9:00 am show.


My client was across the street from our corporate offices so that’s where I decided to start my day in my 46th-floor office. At 8:30 am, I got on the elevator downstairs to trek across the West Side Highway. The never-ending construction necessitated many large, steel plates that would do a good job of covering the holes but made unbearable banging noises every time a car, truck or bus would go over them.


I made it to our offices in the World Financial Center where my project team member met me with a nervous look. “Did you see the plane hit?” What the hell was he talking about?


We walked to the window and looked up at the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Smoke rising and debris falling contrasted with that sunny, blue sky. Our thoughts of a small private plane that lost control were quickly dashed with the explosion of another passenger plane hitting the South Tower.


We evacuated and started the long walk uptown. Stopping and staring in disbelief two separate times to watch those two beautiful towers fall. Never again would they grace that sunny, blue sky.


Over the next several weeks, the world felt like it stopped, and the end might be coming. And even though new priorities took the place of my presentation, the planes eventually took off again. And the Stock Market opened for trading again. And Baseball and Football were played again.


And that horrible time passed.


Or like that Sunday in March 2008. It was chilly, but it was also a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. It was a few days until my birthday, and I was in the midst of the best career project of my life. While incredibly challenging, it was the most rewarding effort I had been tasked with.


While reviewing organization charts of the new department in my living room, the TV was focused on problems at Bear Stearns. They were talking bankruptcy. By now in my career, I knew it was sometimes a fact of life that a company would go out of business, but this was different. Sure, there seemed to be bigger industry issues at play but, more importantly, my father worked at Bear Stearns.


Words like take-over, rescue and job-loss echoed through my head. My father was just as concerned but didn’t have any other information come his way than what we all saw on the news.


Then the news flash came that Sunday night. JP Morgan agreed to buy Bear Stearns for $2 a share. A sobering fact considering that the price of Bear Stearns stock was almost $140 a share, not even a year prior. A demoralizing fact considering my father’s retirement portfolio had a hell of a lot of Bear Stearns stock in it.


For the next several months, the world felt like it stopped, and the end might be coming as more firms, anchors of our financial system, either went out of business or were taken over as the only option they had left. And even though priorities meant my dad had to work for a few more years (at JP Morgan I might add), he was rewarded for his great work with an amazing retirement deal. And that, on top of the amazing returns he enjoyed as the financial system and stock market recovered.


And that horrible time passed.


Yeah, this morning was a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. The picture at the top is the view from my apartment. I had another great weekend with my kids but it’s not like we did very much.


You see, many of the places we would normally go to were either already closed or were making their preparations for closure. There wasn’t much food on the shelves at the store so we would have to make do with what we had. (I did have a box of brownie mix so that was a win)


So, we watched a lot of TV and were flooded with the news of more closures across all industries. I have resisted the urge to look at my own retirement account. I don’t need to view the results of a 30% drop in a week. The guidance from all of the experts is to basically stay indoors for two months, limit contact with others, and only venture outside for essential reasons (work, food, health). It feels like the world has stopped and the end could be coming.


This really seems like a horrible time.


But if I learned one thing from those other sunny, blue-sky days…….


It will pass.

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June 27, 2002


One of the greatest amateur wrestlers of all time stands in the middle of a professional wrestling ring. An NCAA champion, a World Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, this wrestler is clearly on the shortlist of the best amateur wrestlers ever.


But he is no longer just one of the greatest amateur wrestlers. Now standing in the middle of a professional wrestling ring is one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. A WWE Champion, A WCW Champion, A World Heavyweight Champion, an Intercontinental Champion, a European Champion, a King of The Ring, a future WWE Hall of Famer, this wrestler is clearly on the shortlist of the best professional wrestlers ever.


A young, confident wrestler, bursting with skills and potential but untested and unproven, storms to the ring to challenge this accomplished, decorated and admired wrestler to a match. There are high hopes for this young wrestler but, not only will he will need to be able to prove his skills, he also needs to be accepted by the fans. In professional wrestling, if the fans don’t accept you, your future is bleak.


The young wrestler’s name is John Cena. And unless you have been living under a rock, you know he has not only been the face of his industry for the past couple of decades, but he has evolved into a major mainstream star of movies and TV.


It could be argued though, that none of that happens if June 27, 2002, is a bust. Sure, John Cena would display his skills, but would the audience accept him? That was the job of that great amateur and pro wrestler who was waiting for John to storm the ring.


That wrestler was Kurt Angle. On June 27, 2002, he was at the top of the WWE. He was at the top of his industry. He was one of its leaders. He needed to do his part to ensure the future of his organization. He had a job to do.


Kurt Angle’s job was to “put over” John Cena.


They fought hard and had the crowd captivated as the battle went back and forth. Kurt Angle took a brutal beating until finally scoring a pinfall and escaping from the ring, leaving John Cena standing alone. The crowd roared and Kurt’s job was done. The rest is history.


In professional wrestling, to "put over" someone means to make that person look good or otherwise encourage the fans to care about him/her. It is a job requirement of the industry’s stars and it often goes unnoticed as fans focus, as they should, on the person getting put over. Without putting over others, future stars are not built, and the company does not progress into the future. Being able to successfully put someone over is a critical leadership trait.


Today


A new age is upon us and all organizations, in all industries, are challenged with transformation like never before. Transformation of technology. Transformation of products. Transformation of regulation. Transformation of customer expectations and experience. Transformation of talent. New leaders will be necessary to take all organizations into the future.


Developing talent is widely known as an important competency for leaders to be able to demonstrate. Coaching and teaching others. Passing on the knowledge gained from years of experience. But just like in professional wrestling, if the rest of the organization doesn’t accept, then the future is bleak. While it's one thing to pass on knowledge to someone, it’s another thing to get others, especially the senior executives, to accept that someone as a key part of the future.


This is why your ability to effectively put over someone is a skill that makes you an even more effective leader than you already might be. Their skills and potential may be known and now you are helping them shine. You are helping to influence their acceptance as the future talent, and leader, that they may become. You are helping to ensure the future of the organization.


And to do that you are doing something that might not be easy for you. You are taking a back seat. You are putting someone else in the spotlight. You are giving others credit. You are not the focus.


You are a leader.


So, then the question for all you leaders out there is…….


Who are you putting over?

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