3 Leadership Lessons from Carlos Ghosn

In the last issue of IESE Insight magazine, Carlos Ghosn offered three key lessons he has learned during his career.

Carlos Ghosn at IESE
  1. First, he said, “Every problem has a solution,” but business leaders have to be prepared to pay the personal or collective price that will come with a given solution.
  2. Second, things have to get worse before they get better. “It’s easier to improve a company in trouble than a company with an average performance,” he said.
  3. His third lesson was that “you learn management by doing” and nothing is as instructive as highly stressful situations. When faced with adversity, often “you cannot sleep, you cannot eat,” he said, but in the end, such situations are often what teach managers the most.

What lessons have you learnt?

What would you share?

Thanks to Sergio C. for alerting me to these wise words from Carlos Ghosn.

Eliminate the Unnecessary

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Pablo Picasso

Teaching in IESE Madrid

I finished a wonderful 3 day seminar this week in Madrid with 30 directors ranging from industries as diverse as agriculture, to mobile handset makers, to pharmaceuticals to drinks. The course began on Tuesday morning at 9am as the participants introduced themselves, their challenges and their objectives for the course.

I listened and what struck me is how they were able to say so little in so many words. The spanish do have a tendency to start their mouth talking, and then engage their brain. They are not alone in this tendency. The world over, un-practiced communicators speak a lot of noise before they find the meaning.

Eliminate the Unnecessary

It is not only art that benefits from the elimination of the unnecessary. Those that speak powerfully say what they need to say and no more. Their is little filler in their communication. Their voices use no ehem, ahh, hmm, uhh noises.

Great poets cram massive meaning in few words. It takes more work to say it well in 10 seconds than in 30, more work to say it well in 3 minutes than in 10 minutes, more work to say it well in 10 minutes than in 3 hours. I don’t want to be lazy in my meaning. If I can say it in 30 seconds then I want to say it in 30 seconds. I have been working on videos in my youtube channel – working to squeeze 20 minute sections of my course into 2 minute videos. If I can say it well in 2 minutes, I know that I can say it powerfully in 20.

At the end of the course, the participants again shared their experiences with the group. It was a great source of pride to me as I saw the efficiency with which they used words. They spoke powerfully, they spoke with emotion, they spoke using silence when silence was more powerful than any word, and they spoke from the heart.

It takes a lot of complex thinking to achieve simple speaking. It takes many hours of reflection alone with oneself to understand our emotions, and the stories that generate our meaning in relation to what happens to us. Great communication is a mirror of the inner state. If my inner state is confused, my confusion will shine through my speech. If my inner state is self-doubt, my self-doubt will shine through my speech. If my inner state is tired, apathetic and unloved, my apathy will shine through.

Learning to communicate well can not be achieve merely through an outward journey, a learning of tools. There is a need for an inner journey, to understand myself. Few achieve success as actors. The rest of us need to real feel passion inside to project passion to an audience. We can’t fake it for very long.

Develop your Communication Skills: Testimonials

What did the participants in my last 3 day Develop Your Communication Skills program think about their time on the course?

Thanks to the participants in my last 3 day short focussed program for their help in making this video.

Next editions in english: 

  • May 7-9, 2013 in Barcelona

Develop Your Communication Skills Information page

Next editions in spanish: 

  • November 20-22, 2012 in Barcelona
  • January 22-24, in Madrid

Programa Enfocado: Comunicar con Eficacia y Persuasion

Social Media is about Relationships

“Social Media is not about technology, it is about the relationships you can form” Charlene Li, author of Groundswell.

I had the privilege of having coffee with Charlene Li before she spoke to 400 people in IESE Business School’s Aula Magna in Barcelona at the HSM Social Media event.  Watch the video of our interview on the blog.

“I don’t want to be ‘messaged’, engage with me”

We spoke about her book, examples of companies who use social media effectively, and how she, as a parent, manages her family’s exposure to social media.

“It’s not just about listening, it’s about learning and changing…  to consumers marketing often feels like someone shouting at them. That is not a dialogue. You need to join the conversation but you have to have the conversation with your customers that they want to have.”

Does your company use facebook, twitter, google+ effectively?  

Teaching Manifesto

“A person cannot teach another person directly; a person can only facilitate another’s learning” Carl Rogers

This is how I want to Teach:

  • I create an environment in which participants can learn.  I am responsible for setting the mood in the room.
  • I teach leaders.  I accept zero excuses.  I will never, never, never provide pity.  I expect 100% responsibility of each participant for their actions, their preparation, their interventions, their learning.
  • I know every participant is capable of the growth required.
  • I am neither above or below anyone in the room.
  • I ask people for their specific goals.  I am responsible for ensuring that everyone sees how my course, my teaching, their participation is relevant to their current reality and the problems they face.
  • I am a participant, a member of the group.  I aim to learn alongside the group.
  • I take the initiative in sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences, reflections in ways which others can take or leave.  I tell stories that participants can relate to.
  • I teach adults.  Everything I teach applies to real life.  All content is judged by its direct application to improvement in the quality of life of participants, during and for as long as possible after the course.  My teaching is a journey of mutual enquiry.
  • I refer to a wide range of resources for learning. I trust participants to read, view, buy, borrow what serves them.
Inspired by the writings of psychologist and educator Carl R. Rogers, guidelines for the facilitation of learning.

More Reading

6 Steps for Business Problem Solving

The 6 steps for Business Problem Solving

  1. What is the Problem?
  2. What Alternatives exist?
  3. What Criteria are important?
  4. Analyse alternatives against criteria
  5. Choose the Best Option.
  6. Define the Execution Plan.

These steps come from the IESE MBA Course Analysis of Business Problems (ABP).  Wikipedia has a great section on Structured Decision Making models.

Networking in Seven Simple Steps

This post was originally published at IESE Insight Business Knowledge Portal and is based on the longer technical note “Creating and Nurturing your Social Network: The Art of Building Long-term Mutually Beneficial Relationships” written by Fabrizio Ferraro and myself last year.

Networking is like brushing your teeth.

Networking is like brushing your teeth. Does it feel natural or enjoyable? Not really. Is it enough to just brush when a toothache occurs? Regrettably no.

In the same way, networking requires constant and careful attention over a prolonged period of time.

In their technical note, “Creating and Nurturing Your Social Network: The Art of Building Long-term Mutually Beneficial Relationships,” IESE’s Fabrizio Ferraro and Conor Neill draw a distinction between what networking is and what it is not.

They suggest that the familiar scramble for assistance when something urgent is needed – a job, some advice or a charitable donation – is not actually networking, but rather, part of the “sales” process.

In fact, most of your useful networking relationships will be developed long before you actually need them. What’s more, the longer you work on your investment, the greater the return can be.

Start Small

Networking does not come naturally to most people. A bountiful garden is not created overnight. The plants are selected with careful deliberation and nurtured over time. Unwanted weeds are slowly identified and removed.

If you want to grow a garden, the question may well be, “How do I begin?” The answer is easy. “Start today and take small steps.”


Ask lots of questions and show an interest in the passions of the people you meet. If you need a favor early on, then don’t ask too much. Simple requests for advice or contact suggestions make it easy for others to help you. You need to make a deposit in the relationship bank before asking for a large withdrawal.


Always let people know you appreciate their help. A written thank-you note or a thoughtful act stands out in a world where e-mail reigns supreme.


It doesn’t hurt to make a list every now and then. Who do you know? Even more important, who do you want to know?

Seven Steps to Success

Here are some practical considerations to help you master the art of building long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

  1. Interdependence. Our teamwork ability and relationship management skills are every bit as important as the projects we undertake. It pays to acknowledge the value of the networking process and make space for it.
  2. Longevity. Good things take time and you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. The key is to start building your network long before you need it.
  3. Reciprocity. Networking is not all about what others can do for you. Think about what you can bring to the table. Sometimes it begins with a simple compliment about a presentation or project. If you offer someone help, then be sure to follow through. Trust and reputation depend on reliability.
  4. Similarity. While it’s easier to befriend people who are like you, it’s always possible to find some middle ground with others, no matter how different they might appear at first. Step outside your comfort zone and learn from people with diverse backgrounds, objectives and incentives. Bill Gates once said in an interview that he prefers to read an entire magazine, not only the parts that interest him. That way, you always learn something new.
  5. Proximity. Most social relationships are born out of proximity. However, being close won’t help you if you don’t try to get actively involved.
  6. Cross-fertilization. Successful leaders influence contacts from one network to another. Think about the people in your contact list. Who needs attention? Who is owed favors or needs your help? You can begin thinking of your network as a lifetime journey, rather than a one-off effort.
  7. Sociability. If you do not enjoy meeting new people, it is unlikely that they will enjoy spending time with you. Therefore, it is key to find venues and situations where you actually enjoy networking, rather than forcing yourself to schmooze in uncomfortable settings. Meeting new people can be fun as long as you find out what works best for you and don’t approach it as a chore.

Beyond Professional Success

Make time to lead a well-rounded life outside of work. It can be a powerful and rewarding experience to share time with people who value you, not for what you do or what you bring them. These relationships are a valuable source of energy and self-confidence.

In all aspects of life, networking doesn’t come down to the basic question, “How will this benefit me?” Rather, it makes more sense to ask, “How can I add to this situation?”

You will be rewarded in time as your garden grows.

Can you help me?

How do you “network”?  Can you network in an authentic fashion?  Are some people good and some people hopeless at networking?  Is it a learnt skill?  I am preparing a series of seminars on networking at IESE Business School for the incoming MBA class.  What should I share with them?  How can they best connect out to companies, leaders, potential mentors and advisors?  Please share your thoughts (in the blog comments, on facebook, in LinkedInor through email blog[at]cono.rs )

A Rant on Time Management

You don’t need more time management.

You need to say “No” more.

I watched an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert recently.  She said “When I was young I used to think that if I said No to people, they would feel rejected, get angry and feel let down.  Now that I am older I realise that when I say No to people they do feel rejected, get angry and feel let down…  but I have to do it for me.”  It is true.  It is not easy to say “No”.

Dharmesh Shah gives a good thought on framing your “No”. 

It’s not easy.

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