Graduated Magna cum Latte

Your LinkedIn brand represents a significant part your professional brand. What do you want the world to know about you?  What do you represent?

My friend David sent me a profile that had this – “Graduated Magna cum Latte” under Education.  We were both in total disbelief.  We laughed and wondered if this person had graduated from the University of Starbucks.  So I did a search on LinkedIn for the exact phrase and found several other profiles with the same representation.  Seriously, could someone have graduated magna cum laude and never learned how to spell?

Are these people embellishing their profile?  Probably.
Are they also embellishing their resume? Again, probably.

Another friend of mine says “how you do something is how you do everything.”  In other words, if you cheat on one aspect of your life, you are a cheater in other aspects too.

Several years ago, when I worked for a Fortune 500 company, I found with unfortunate frequency that people lied about having a Masters Degree.  The jobs I was recruiting for at the time didn’t require a Masters.  The candidates I was trying to hire would have gotten the job anyway.  When we found out by a simple background check that the candidate had lied, we rescinded the offer.  A lie is a lie.

If you graduated magna cum latte, there are only 3 possibilties-

  1. You’re lying
  2. You’re not the brightest bulb in the pack
  3. Both

The Leadership Lattice presents: Rob Meilen – Communicate Relentlessly

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The Leadership Lattice presents: Joe Assell, Co-Founder & CEO of GolfTEC, The GolfTEC Story, Part 1 in a 3 Part Series

The Leadership Lattice – a Leadership Interview Series presents: Tom Frey, Executive Director, The DaVinci Institute

The Leadership Lattice, an interview series designed to cultivate conversation on building strong leadership in the public and private sector, presents:  Tom Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute, a Futurist Think tank in Boulder CO.

This interview was conducted, edited and summarized by Ann Spoor, Founder of Executive Lattice, in Denver Colorado. 


  1. 1.      What is the future of leadership?

We are backwards looking society.  The past is knowable. As a Futurist, it’s my role to turn leaders around and have them look into the future.  The future will happen whether we like it or not.  If the projects we’re working on today aren’t aligned to the future, the future will kill that project. The future is unforgiving.  We need to orient our thinking to the problems, needs and desires of the future.  A leader has to create the future in the minds of everyone around them. The future creates the present. The leader has to communicate their vision of the future in order to influence and claim ownership of the future. We have to create the tools to monitor, measure and monetize the future and that is part of what we are working on at the DaVinci Institute.

2.      How has technology impacted how leaders lead?

Leaders must have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on- right now. Technology allows for the speed of feedback to be much greater. Leaders must have greater access to technology in order to be able to react to the speed of the marketplace. Technology has also enabled greater flexibility for both the company and the individual.  Examples would be telecommuting and virtual officing.  Companies that hire virtual employees are able to focus more on accomplishments and results vs. old social norms.  Entire business operations have been built around the virtual office. Oracle is an example of an organization where 80% of its employees work virtually.  Another is Alpine Access, a call center company where all of their call center operators work remotely.  Technology has been the enabler and the result has been a flexible and loyal employee base.

3.      How do you lead in a more virtual environment?

We are becoming a more fluid and project oriented society. The cost of hiring continues to rise and employers have an obligation to keep costs down. I predict that companies will more and more hire project oriented workers. The new generation of worker finds security and satisfaction in project based work.  They have been witness to their parents getting laid off after years of service and they don’t want the same thing to happen to themselves.  We predict the formation of business colonies organized around themes much like what happens in Hollywood. Themes like nanotech, biotech, etc. In Hollywood, project teams are formed organically around a film and when the film is completed, the project team disbands. As business colonies form, companies will do the same thing. The leaders of the future will have to lead more diverse teams comprised of these project workers in a business colony model.

4.      How do you lead in this increasingly hyper-individualized society?

There is a battle between the digital and physical world where the digital world is sucking talent from the physical world.  We need a way to interface and the trend is to do this using apps and this has been a bottom up approach. The number of apps has exploded.  This bottom up approach is utilizing global intelligence to build solutions and products. Apple’s iPod is just a ripple in the forest. We are talking about building apps into many products; the list goes on and on.  For example, what kind of apps could we build into a car if there were an open framework?   This bottom up approach requires more experimentation, acceptance of more risk, and less control. The leaders of the future will have to constantly experiment with new approaches, tools and technologies.  There is a great quote- Power is about what you can control and freedom is about what you can unleash. Companies who try to control will be less innovative.

5.     How does Social Media impact leadership?

At the heart of the Social Media revolution is the notion of crowds. Organizations and leaders are going to have to figure out how to tap into crowds and monetize. Working with crowds is a challenge because of the level of noise out there. If you look at the Super Bowl this last Sunday for example, there were 2 radically different approaches to ad creation.  Doritos used a bottom up approach.  Users created advertisements which were quite effective and clever.  The ads themselves cost nothing, but sifting through them, there were probably thousands, was a big undertaking.  Budweiser used a more tradition top down approach – a commercially created and produced Ad.  The leadership of each company took a very different approach.  Both were effective. 

In Social Media, when you are fielding advice from a large community- you have to sift through all of the data and decide who to listen to.  Leaders, organizations, and individuals are experimenting.  For every experiment that yields positive results, there are 2-3 that don’t.  There is no clear answer.  In the business world, we like things that are repeatable.  Social media isn’t there yet.  Social media continues to morph and change.

The Leadership Lattice – a Leadership Interview Series presents: Rob Meilen, Chief Information Officer

This interview was conducted and summarized by Ann Spoor, Founder of Executive Lattice, in Denver Colorado. 

  1. What’s your approach to leadership?

I see the role of a leader in setting the vision for their organization and communicating relentlessly about it – what is it and why is it important.  People come to work for lots of different reasons but a key aspect is that they want to be part of something larger than themselves.  It’s the responsible of the leader to make that tangible.  Why should someone dedicate their efforts to the project, organization and company?  The leader has to make that case and make it regularly.

  1. What were some important leadership lessons for you early in your career?

Early in my career, I was working in consulting and got a lesson around dealing with ambiguity.  I had a great boss who at the right time took the time to plan and at other times just rolled up his sleeves, sat down and got working – sometimes you can plan and be thoughtful but at other he would sit down and get rolling, which brought energy and momentum to the team or project.  He could generate momentum and creativity even when there were unknowns.  As leaders, we need to create an atmosphere of momentum.  

  1. Did you have a mentor early in your career?  What was it about that person that impacted you in the biggest way?

Yes, at Ann Taylor I worked on an initiative which ran into trouble.  The Board of Directors brought in a consultant.  Steve had both broad and deep experience in leadership, retail and technology. The key thing I learned from him was around succeeding by connecting with others in the organization.  He was able to talk to all levels, across all functions.  He taught us the value of building relationships across boundaries, especially when it came to solving big problems.

  1. What have you been doing differently in this economy as a leader?

In the past, when the economy was strong, we could look at projects that had a single driver (cost saving for example).  In this economy, where capital is more constrained and we are operating with fewer resources, we have to look for opportunities that hit on several drivers: cost saving and revenue, process efficient and driving strategic growth initiatives.   These are harder to find but they do exist.

  1. How do you hire?

A key part of the hiring process is that I personally interview every finalist who will have supervisory responsibilities. I look not only for people who can win today but, can also consistently win in the future.  I look for people who can collaborate and help to grow their own teams.  Candidates have to be strong technically, functionally, interpersonally and managerially.  I look for the complete package.

  1. What other qualities are you trying to get at in the interview?  

The two other qualities I look for are people who can deliver superior customer service and thought leadership.  IT is a service to the business; it’s not the primary business.  We need to bring solutions, ways to use IT that can advance the business.  Technology skills are easy to train but thought leadership and the attention to the customer is not.

  1. What was your first job and how old were you?

My first job was a Paper route – at about age 11. What I learned was about customer service and building relationships although, I didn’t necessary know it at the time.  My tips depended on it.  You have to get up early on Sunday morning regardless of the weather or how tired you are.

  1. How long have you been in Colorado?

I came to Colorado about 7 years ago for my job at Sport Authority.  We feel very fortunate to be here.

  1. What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading “Cyber War” – by Richard A. Clarke. Clarke is a national security and counter-terrorism expert; worked in White House under Pres. Reagan, both Pres Bush and Pres Clinton. Sadly, the threat to information in private and public sector is growing.  As IT leaders we own the responsibility to capitalize and to safeguard that information.  I picked up the book because I was interested but it’s directly connected to what we do as IT leaders.

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