The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

Episode #252: Tom Peters – In Search Of Excellence

Tom Peters is co-author of In Search of Excellence—the book that changed the way the world does business, and often tagged as the best business book ever. Sixteen books and almost thirty years later, he’s still at the forefront of the “management guru industry” he single-handedly invented. What’s new? A lot. As CNN said, “While most business gurus milk the same mantra for all its worth, the one-man brand called Tom Peters is still reinventing himself.”  Tom’s bedrock belief: “Execution is strategy—it’s all about the people and the doing, not the talking and the theory.” (Keep up with Tom at, ranked #9 among “The Top 150 Management and Leadership Blogs.”) His most recent effort, released in April, 2018 is titled, The Excellence Dividend.

“Excellence is the next 5 minutes… Or not.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of those who sustain excellence:
    • They are “thoroughly decent human beings”
    • They help other people grow
    • They really care about the people they work with and help them get better everyday
  • Quotes from Tom Peters:
    • “Arguably the eight most important words a leader can utter: “THANK YOU.” “I’M SORRY.” “WHAT DO YOU THINK?”
    • “Priority #1, #2, #3: Culture. Culture. Culture. “It IS the game,” Lou Gerstner on IBM turnaround.
    • “My 20-year-old “agile”: WTTMSASTMSUTFW/Whoever Tries The Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins.
    • “Every meeting that does not stir the imagination and curiosity of its attendees is what I like to call a PLO: a Permanently Lost Opportunity. I am all in favor of eliminating unnecessary meetings!”
    • The big corporations/large law firms “punished creative thinking”
    • “You must create space for people to be better than they ever have.”
    • “Excellence is the next 5 minutes… Or not.”
  • The key to being a great manager? “MBWA” — “The minute those words came out of his mouth, my life changed (Managing By Wandering Around)
  • The importance of being intentional and thoughtful
  • My Dad is a huge fan of Tom’s work and told me to read his work
  • “Your culture is managed every minute of every day”
  • The process to prepare for your week as the leader (Sunday night work)
  • Start your meetings with “Good morning”
    • “Find a smile, find the energy” –> Your team will follow your attitude and behavior. “It’s your duty to be in a good mood.”
  • How to run a world class meeting?
    • A meeting can and should be excellent” –> It sets the stage for the next 5 days. Think about it and prepare.
      • Will it be an upper or a downer?
    • Should have civility and thoughtfulness –> “No smartassery”
  • The definition of a great teacher is “someone who is desperate to help their students succeed.”
  • How to choose better people to promote?
    • “First line leadership is of supreme importance”
    • “We always hire for character.” –> Theo Epstein: Look at the analytics and combine them with culture and character to decide
  • Training — “Practice should be harder than the games”
    • Neighbors with Bill Walsh — “The Score Takes Care of Itself”
    • He spent the first 18 months as the coach of the 49ers developing a new culture
    • John Wooden — Similar story about culture building
  • Jerry Seinfeld spends six months at very “out of the way” clubs in order to add a new 2 minutes to his stand up routine — Be that deliberate
  • Tom’s training and preparation for a speech (even after doing 3,000+ of them!)
    • Read on the company and the industry in depth
    • Read what’s going on in the world – stay up to date
    • Read about the specific city where the speech is being delivered, read the local paper, pick up little vignettes
    • Awake at 2:00 am rearranging the PowerPoint slides — “I make about 700 changes”
    • How do you feel 30 seconds before you go on stage? “Pure fear, there is enormous pressure for me to deliver for them”
  • Why you should always write thank you notes
    • Campbell’s Soup CEO wrote 30,000 thank you notes
    • Home Depot CEO wrote them every Sunday
  • Social Media:


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