Monday, December 31, 2007

New URL for GottaGettaBLOG!

Please note that GottaGettaBLOG! posts from the years 2003 through 2007 will be permanently archived, here, at, under the heading of "GottaGettaBlog! 2003-2007". But, starting January 2008, blog posts will be posted at:

Furthermore, starting January 2010, new posts will be at:

Please update your bookmarks and automated feeds accordingly.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wynton Marsalis: Leadership Lessons

  1. THINK BIG, BUT DON'T BE IMPATIENT. Deferring the rewards of long-term success is difficult but necessary if you are going to have the mental fortitude to achieve them.
  2. BE PERFECT IN INTENTION; YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT IN EXECUTION. Mistakes, by you and your staff, will happen.
  3. YOU CAN ONLY 00 THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO. Keep your goals high, but don't set yourself up for failure. Be patient.
  4. DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR A MISTAKE. APOLOGIZE IF YOU DON'T PLAY. Knowing that effort is what matters gives people the courage to always try their hardest.
  6. BELIEF IN OTHER PEOPLE'S CREATIVITY ALLOWS PEOPLE AROUND YOU TO BE THEMSELVES AND ACHIEVE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY. If your staff members have the freedom to achieve as individuals, the returns will be manifold.
  7. APPROACH YOUR TASK VERY SERIOUSLY-BUT WITH HUMOR. Discipline should never come at the expense of closing one's self to new ideas, and vice versa.
  9. IT ISN'T MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY. Learn to compromise and be flexible.
  10. WHEN YOU'RE A LEADER, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW, TOO. Good leaders know they don't have a monopoly on brilliant ideas. Be objective and willing to follow Insights you may have missed.
  11. HUMILITY INSPIRES PEOPLE; ORGANIZATION INSPIRES A STAFF. Always try to give your staff clear plans and goals, but allow them room for self-empowerment.
  12. RESPECT THE FREEDOM OF OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR CREATIVITY. JAZZ MUSIC TEACHES THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE. Giving your staff the freedom to improvise opens the floodgates on innovation.
  13. YOU CAN'T LOOK AT ANY PERSON AND TELL WHETHER THEY CAN PLAY. ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE CAN PLAY. Some of the best talent can be found in the most unexpected places.
  14. THERE IS A LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN DEMAND FROM SOMEBODY ELSE. Nothing erodes the spirit like a boss who can never be pleased.
  15. BE FUNDAMENTALLY TRUTHFUL. Without truth, your success will unravel.
from Success Magazine, July 2007

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Done with your Performance Reviews Yet?!

Been putting off those year-end performance evaluations because you can't figure out exactly how to say what you know needs to be said?

Well help is available in the form of an easily downloadable Special Report called: Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Boss MUST Know How to Say.

Employee Performance Discussions e-bookGiving effective employee performance reviews is not about being a jerk. To the contrary - it's about being respectful, caring, succinct, and on-the-money with your observations, comments, recommendations, and requests. The better you do this, the more likely your staff's performance will improve. Perhaps more importantly, though, the better you do this, the more likely your staff's improved performance can be sustained over time.

Employee Discussions shows you how. In it, you'll find:
  • 10 specific conversation "clarifiers" that can dramatically improve the performance of all employees - from your very best, to weakest, and everyone in between
  • Specific phrasings of what to say, including when to say it, and why
  • Concrete examples for you to follow in your own performance management discussions with your direct reports and lower-level employees
  • An Application section that includes typical employee problem scenarios along with clarified and simplified scripts for giving constructive criticism
  • A Locking-in-the-Learning section, where important coaching questions are raised for you to answer, and homework assignments for you to complete, so you can integrate these lessons more quickly and thoroughly into your management skill-set
  • Primary Focus questions that directs your attention to recognizing how best to apply each specific ‘clarifier’ to your current employee performance situation.
Procrastinate no more - get your copy of Employee Performance Discussions at today and finish up those employee evaluations already!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Not Still Spelled "Busy-ness" for a Reason

It was a good idea gone bad. "Let's call it 'busy-ness'," they said, "because that's what we want people to be at work - busy."

And so it was for about 200 years until, around the 14th century, some bosses started realizing that being "busy" wasn't exactly what they were looking for from their underlings. True, they did want diligence, but it had become apparent that what their minions diligently worked on made a huge difference in the profitability of the company. Who knew?!

So with this subtle, but powerful, distinction now understood, a similarly subtle, but maybe not as meaningful spelling change was agreed upon. The "y" was dropped, and an "i" was put in its place, and the word "business" was born! (At least that's the story that I made up about it.)

The problem, though, is that so many people are still so busy being busy, that they haven't stopped to read the memo.

So for the record, there is a difference between doing 'stuff' and getting stuff done. There is a difference between driving to work and driving key business results. And there is a difference between the busy-ness of work and the work of business.

Take a moment and review this with someone you're mentoring, would you please? It is a subtle, but powerful, distinction that everyone deserves to understand.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking it Off-Line

Scenario: You're attending a staff meeting, tensions are high, pressure is rising, and your boss turns to you and asks a very pointed, but tangential, question that the answer to which is likely to drag things (and possibly you) down further. You try to take it off-line, that is, suggest you talk about it later, but the boss says "No. We're talking about it now."

What to do?~

Talk about it now, responding as quickly, crisply, and in as a respectful, non-defensive manner, as possible, pushing back when necessary, but doing so because it's called-for, not just because you feel like it or don't know what else to do. And hope that it doesn't turn into an inquisition, of sorts.

That said, what can you do to increase the probability that your next 'off-line' request will be agreed to and accepted ? Here are some ideas:
  1. Stay calm and composed - Nothing encourages a boss to go on the offense more than someone's defensiveness. Practice poise under pressure. It will serve you well.
  2. Frame your rationale - There's a huge difference in wanting to talk about something later because it makes more sense to, and wanting to do so because you're trying to avoid even having the conversation. Clearly frame your reasons accordingly, citing one of two compelling reasons why a different time and/or different setting for the discussion would better serve to boss and be advantageous to everyone else.
  3. Leverage your reputation - If your boss already knows you as a trusted advisor, this whole process becomes much more simple. Showing you're not afraid to 'dig in', 'hit things head on', and 'make the tough choices' - on a daily basis - will go a long way in times like these. Building a reputation that says 'credibility' gives you a foundation to stand on in such circumstances.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The F-L-I-G-H-T of On-Site Executive Coaching

While the vast majority of my work is done by telephone, I've been doing more in-person/on-site work this year, shadowing, observing, debriefing, and coaching my executive clients as they do whatever it is they they have to do on a given day. It's a fascinating, informative, enlightening, fun - yes fun -, intense, different, and often quite powerful day-in-the-life for both me and the individual executive I'm working with that day.

With this, a fair amount of air travel has come, which I've found to be pretty okay, actually - certainly far better than I first expected. I dunno. I guess you could say that there's just something about the flight that I've really come to enjoy:
  • F - Figuring out what to pack, bring, etc. to look and feel my best
  • L - Letting check-in and security personnel do their thing without affecting my mood
  • I - In the air with my thoughts, a good book, some new tunes, or just some pleasant conversation with a fellow passenger
  • G - Getting ready for a full-day of shadowing, and all that implies
  • H - Harvesting whatever observations, insights, and implications the day has to offer and putting them in whatever context best serves my client
  • T - Turning around after a good day's work and heading back home, a bit wired, a bit tired, and very much at ease
I think my clients enjoy the 'flight' too, although perhaps for slightly different reasons:
  • F - Figuring out what meetings to schedule and the agenda for the day
  • L - Letting me interact with more and more of their 'true self' as the day progresses
  • I - Inquiring more and more about what else I was noticing - and what else they seemingly weren't
  • G - Getting more conscious and purposeful about the impact and influence they're having - and can have - on others
  • H - Holding the day just completed as an invigorating, albeit slightly exhausting, growth experience
  • T - Thinking deeply about their Lessons Learned and how best to integrate them on an ongoing basis
So to all those I've shadowed so far, thanks. To all those on the docket to be shadowed, start planning your pre-flight checklist. And to anyone else interested in being shadowed for a day, please give me a call!


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Monday, June 25, 2007

When the cat's away...

What's it like when you return back from a conference or seminar or vacation? Are things running smoothly or are they coming apart at the seams. Which do you prefer? Regardless, each scenario says things about you as a leader - quite different things, actually:
  1. Things are a mess upon your return and you don't like it one, single, bit - Welcome back! And if every fiber in your being is trying to prevent yourself from screaming "Did you do anything right?" at your direct reports, the problem has probably a whole lot less to do with your team than you realize. Chances are that much of the angst can be traced back to you doing a very poor job in preparing them for your absence, or dealing with some long-standing performance issues. Grade: -10.
  2. Things are running smoothly and you don't like it - Welcome back! Your staff did a great job! Every thing's fine, except ... you're suddenly feeling like you're not as needed as you used to be. An extra cog in the wheel? Better off not even being there? Oh my. Is my job at risk? Oh, dear, my job is at risk. Rather than being happy for all that went well in your absence, you're acting small and disrespectful to the people who really worked hard to keep things going. Grade: -5.
  3. Things are a mess and you kinda like it like that - Welcome back! Clearly, you were missed and it's good you're back because you're needed, hero. And yet, if this is the case, it's likely that your ego is getting in the way of you properly challenging and developing your staff. Grade: -15.
  4. Things are running smoothly and you like it - Welcome back! Some good stuff happened while you were away and they're glad you're back. It isn't easy filling in for you when you're gone, but they did a really nice job of it. And now, they're ready to turn the reigns back to you. It's not easy doing what you do. They have a much better understanding of that now. And they're that much more appreciative of just how good of a boss you really are. Bingo! Grade: +10.
The ultimate litmus: If your staff works harder when you're out of the office than when you're in - and you're properly appreciative of the fact - you're probably a pretty good leader.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

What Next? By When?

"I'm in a real backlog situation, Barry. How can I dig out?"

Although it may seem a bit odd to phrase it this way, the problem here isn't so much that there's too much to do as much as it is that not enough is getting done soon enough.

Phrasing it in terms of having too much to do can actually slow you down. Why? Because the time spent thinking about how much there is to do is time no longer available to get 'er done.

Conversely, phrasing it in terms of not enough getting done soon enough begs the question "What Next?" which is the key to moving things meaningfully forward. Many (most?) managers have a pretty clear sense of what needs to be done, but far fewer really grasp what needs to be done ... next.

Starting there is always a good idea.

A corollary of the "What Next?" question is "By When?"

You don't leave for work in the morning without any sense of when you'll get there, do you? You didn't do your taxes without any sense of when the 15th was, did you? But you probably do assign tasks to your staff without telling them when you need them completed by.

"Jimmy, take care of this," is not nearly as effective as "Jimmy, take care of this by the end of the week," or "Jimmy, take care of this before leaving for lunch today." Deadlines not only help things get done, but they also help things get done sooner. And that's the point, right?!

So the next time you find that not enough is getting done soon enough, try managing based on deadlines rather than just on deliverables and see what "What Next?" and "By When?" can do for you.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Top Mentoring Surprises

I was traveling last week doing some on-site coaching work for a few corporate clients, so I didn't get to post anything blog-wise. I really like on-site work, though - and it's becoming an increasing part of my business, which is nice.

I enjoy spending a day 'shadowing' a client: I get to see them in action; I get to listen to what they talk about; I get to watch how they interact with people; and I then get to debrief with him/her about what I noticed. It usually stimulates some really interesting insights to surface and meaningfully advances the coaching conversation.

A fascinating byproduct of on-site work is that I get to meet and interact with a number of new, really interesting, people. Enter Scott Collins. Although we never met before, he and I got into an excellent conversation about how different a formal mentoring relationship feels after it starts, compared to before it actually does.

"How so?" I asked. To wit, here is his list of Top Mentoring Surprises:
  1. You can say things to your mentor that you can't say to anyone else ... well, almost
  2. Discussions with you mentor are actually fun because of Surprise #1
  3. You can trust what your mentor tells you because he/she isn't really impacted by how you react
  4. You can ask you mentor to "put in a good word" for you, but it will probably happen without you even having to ask
  5. Success in a mentoring relationship goes both ways ... if you are seen as a successful mentee, your mentor will be viewed in a more positive light as well
  6. If you follow your mentor's advice ... more advice will follow
  7. A good mentor sees the relationship as an investment in the company, you and him/herself, it's a partnership, not a burden

Thanks, Scott. Couldn't've said it better myself.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Creating a Portfolio of Mentors

For an innovative approach to establishing an entire network of mentors interested in your success, read my latest article, Creating a Portfolio of Mentors. It was just published by - exclusive partners of the WSJ and Business Week online.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

What is (capital L) Leadership?

Hi All ~ I could use your help.

I'm trying to clarify in my own mind what it means to be a (capital L) Leader and I'm hoping you can weigh in on the following two questions:

Question #1: What are some of the words, actions, thoughts, and intentions, etc. that capture, for you, what it means to be a (capital L) Leader?

Question #2: How do you tell the difference between a real (capital L) Leader and someone who's just masquerading as one?

Now I know that a number of you who actively read my blog entries - thank you for that, by the way - are just not comfortable with posting your comments or reactions on-line. Please know that I am totally okay with that.

But, if you were ever thinking about maybe wanting to post a comment at some point, this would be a pretty excellent opportunity for you to do so. In other words, I could really use your help ... and insight ... on this one!


P.S. If you need it, here's a link on how to post a comment. Again, thanks.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

What do you do with information that others give you?

Most bosses want their employees to be open and honest with them. But depending on what you do with the information they provide, you may have already found that they've stopped giving you anything more than the absolute minimum.

In fact, it's pretty well known that if you "shoot the messenger" - that is, yell at someone who gives you bad news - people will stop giving you ANY news that you might even CONSTRUE as bad. Similarly, if someone gives you some information and you use it to embarrass or discredit them, or make them feel less, it won't take long for people to realize that you just can't be trusted.

It's a thin line to walk. But an important one because having access to NEW INFORMATION is a key component of being a better boss. Without it - or without much of it - you've got nothing to synthesize into new insights and ideas. (Read: no value-added.)

Since it's so much harder to solve a pesky problem if all you CAN know about it is what you already DO know about it,

  • How do you keep the flow of NEW INFORMATION coming?
  • How do you maintain your trustworthiness even though you sometimes have to use the information you receive against the very people who share it with you?
  • What do you do to encourage people to continue communicating with you notwithstanding the consequences?
Please share your insights and ideas so others may benefit from them.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Job Seekers: Out-shine the Competition

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, here a six great ways to stand out from your peers and/or other job applicants, and my comments in green:

1. Communicate your value to the organization - Emphasize the connection between your achievements and the organization's bottom line or goals and objectives. Accomplishments are great, but in and of themselves, they're somewhat irrelevant if you can't show their relevance to the opportunity at hand. Help your audience connect the dots.

2. Create a portfolio documenting your successes - Use this 'brag book' to help build your self-confidence before important meetings or interviews. Include in it anything and everything you're particularly proud of. I like to call this your "Good for ME!" file and anything that makes you smile, warms your heart, or helps you remember how smart and capable you really are is great stuff to include.

3. Find a mentor - And not just one, but several so that you don't find yourself over-relying (or over-burdening) any one person. I suggest my clients create a portfolio of mentors - one for each area of their interests/needs. That way they can target mentors far more precisely. To get started, take out a clean piece of paper and draw a circle. Divide it into eight wedges. Label each wedge with an area of interest/need of yours that would benefit from a little coaching or mentoring. Now for each wedge, identify two-to-three people who would be a good resource for you in this regard. Note: They all don't have to be people you already know. Authors, as example, are great resources for additional insights related to their books, or magazine articles. You now have a portfolio of 16-24 people you can contact for some expert advice.

4. Find a sponsor - There's nothing like a high-ranking, much-respected advocate for your cause. Who are your high-ranking, much-respected advocates? Before leaving to become a coach, my boss recommended me for a promotion to corporate officer (which I received). But before he would, he wanted to know who on the Board would stand up for me? It was a serious question and speaks directly to the power of a having a sponsor.

5. Surround yourself with a super team - When they win, you win, especially if you paint victories as the success of both you AND your team. Your ability as an individual contributor may have enabled your past success, but your future success will depend far more on your ability to lead others in doing their work than ever before.

6. Find one or more external advisors - Look outside for objective advice to keep you grounded and focused. It's too good to pass up ... repeat after me: "I GottaGettaCoach!"

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Do You Obfuscate?

Well, DO you?


Pronunciation: 'äb-f&-"skAt; äb-'f&s-"kAt,
Function: transitive verbInflected
Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
Etymology: (Latin) ob- in the way + fuscus dark brown

1b: to make obscure

I'm reminded to ask this question by a recent comment from Sammy Sosa's agent, Adam Katz. When asked if he thought Sosa and his teammates could make up and play nice together next year after Sosa skipped out on his teammates (and fans) the last game of the season, Katz replied:

"I've said a hundred times that any inflammation that exists I consider manageable. It's not even remotely insurmountable."
Now THIS is obfuscation at its BEST! First off, that the situation is considered 'manageable' does NOT mean that everyone has to sing a happy song together. If Sosa gets traded to another team, as example, that's perfectly manageable, too, isn't it?

But it's that next sentence that takes the cake: "It's not even remotely insurmountable." So 'it's not even' plus 'insurmountable' is a double negative, which means he really means, "It's remotely doable." But then there's that pesky little word "remotely". You'd think that'd mean it's a no-brainer, easy thing to do, right? But 'remotely' means, among other things (see definition 6) "small in degree : SLIGHT". So that means what Katz is REALLY saying is this:

"It's a remote possibilitity that it can actually be done."

And that is 180 degrees opposite of what Katz seems to want us to infer. Bottom Line: This is not the stuff that trust is built-upon.

So I ask again, do YOU obfuscate?

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Friday, June 25, 2004

Employee Review Time

Mid-year reviews can be a real pain - on managers and employees alike. First, no one likes to be judged, and frankly, that's exactly what these exercises are all about. Second, it takes time to figure out what you want to say about someone in their review - and then to articulate it in a way that doesn't sound all wrong. And third, when it inevitably does sound wrong, the ensuing conversation is typically pretty uncomfortable.

But the worst part is that after everything is said and done, these reviews don't even matter all that much - that is to say that no salary change typically occur as a result of them. So what's the point?!

Well, the point is that people have a right to know how they're doing. And if they're doing poorly (or not fabulously) they deserve to know that so that they can do something about it ... if they so choose.

That's why I've created special report called Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Manager MUST Know How to Say.

If you're a manager, and find it particularly stressful (or distasteful) to do these mid-year reviews, or you're just interested in doing the best you can with respect to your employee's performance reviews, you may want to get yourself a copy of this special report.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A Seat at the Table

No doubt you attend more meetings than you probably care to. And no doubt, many of those meetings aren't the best use of your time. So to suggest that there are some meetings that you'd actually want to attend must seem pretty absurd. But it's not.

There are four types of meetings:

(1) the kind you attend that aren't worth your time (most?);
(2) the kind you attend and are glad you do;
(3) the kind you don't and are glad you don't (many); and
(4) the type you don't attend but would really like to.

It's this last category that's worth another look.

What meetings are these? What would you have to offer if you did attend? Who needs to know that? How would attending help you in your work? etc.

Simpy put, sometimes you have to ask if you want to have a seat at the table.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

Trust and Trustworthiness

In the 1qtr2004 issue of my Not Just Talk! newsletter, I wrote an article entitled, On Building Trust, Rapport, and Respect. Here, now, are some additional thoughts about trust and trustworthiness:

1. Trust is not a given; it must be earned by showing that you are trustworthy - several times.

2. The more you use your formal authority to stifle discussions the less people will trust you.

3. The more you use your formal authority to help others solve problems the more people will trust you.

4. Once earned, people still need to be reminded that you can be trusted - that they haven't been burned by trusting you in the past.

5. How well you make - and keep - commitments will determine how people trust you.

6. How well you solicit - and monitor - commitments made to you by others will determine how people trust you.

Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor. Commit to becoming more genuinely trustworthy this year.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

Fast Company Issue 78: The Corporate Shrink

It's not on line yet, but the question posed in The Corporate Shirknk column of the January 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine read like this:

"I seem to be on the fast track at my company. The firm sends me to off-site leadership-training programs every year. Frankly, though, while I enjoy the week off and always come back energized, a month later I'm back to my old habits. Is it me, or is leadership training less than it's cracked up to be?"

The response, in part, read something like this:

"Ah, you've hit on one of the great unspoken dilemmas of the business world ... Your experience of leadership training is common. It's flattering to be sent and sometimes inspiring to attend ... But we just don't change our stripes all that much after a week of nearly anything ..."

This speaks DIRECTLY to the inherent value of the ongoing coaching process - something I've been talking about for quite some time. One of the pages on my website specifically discusses how coaching augments training, seminars and conferences. If you haven't looked at it recently, you may want to. And as you think about what seminars and conferences you'll be sending your direct reports to this year, you might want to consider augmenting them (or replacing them entirely) with an ONGOING commitment to your managers' professional development through 1-on-1 coaching, mentoring, and performance consulting.

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Sunday, December 21, 2003

Are 'soft skills' really important?

On one of the message boards I frequent, someone asked for a good definition for the term 'soft skills'. Here's how I replied:

"When I think of 'soft skills' I think of how airline pilots can smoothly land a plane. Sure, a crash would address the need - to get us out of the sky - but we passengers wouldn't be so quick to line up for the next flight now would we?! In a business context, soft skills are what enable safe landings, too - they encourage and motivate people to literally and figuratively stay on board, regardless of how bumpy the flight has been.

"Now isn't that a refreshing way to look at it?"


Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Wall Street Journal article

In today's WSJ (page B1) Joann S. Lublin's Managing Your Career column is titled, "Even Top Executives Could Use Mentors to Benefit Careers." (The article is not yet available for free on-line, but I think it's just GREAT that she writes articles like these.) In it, she tells the tale of Melissa Dyrdahl, senior vice president of corporate marketing and communications at Adobe Systems. Ms. Dyrdahl, it seems, credits much of her success to mentoring she's received from Adobe president and CEO Bruce R. Chizen.

"[Mentors] provide a mirror for me to reflect back on," she says, "[presenting perspectives] that I am unable or willing to see." As her mentor, Mr. Chizen says he is "...brutally honest with her," but adds, "If she wasn't intereseted in feedback, [mentoring] would be impossible."

According to the article, Mr. Chizen has his own mentors, too, co-chairman John F. Warnock and Charles M. Geschke. The article continues ... "Mr. Chizen solicits their views before tackling notty problems, such as whether to set operating-margin targets that plese investors more than staffers."

But both "Ms. Dyrdahl and Mr. Chizen aslo have forged relationships with mentors with no Adobe ties," which I think is essential. Too often executives fall into the trap of listening only to people who share their same myopic view.

Good for them. And how about you?