Issue No. 45

December 2014

Filling Some Big Shoes


It's not easy to fill the shoes of a legend but for Apple's current CEO Tim Cook, the stage for that was set from the moment he met the technology icon Steve Jobs. In a commencement address at Cook's Alma Mata, Auburn University, he recalled his first meeting with Jobs.

On that day in early 1998 I listened to my intuition, not the left side of my brain or for that matter, even the people who knew me best... no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple. My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius, and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company.

At that time, Apple was on the ropes, having become unprofitable for the first time in its history. When Steve Jobs returned to take the reins of the company he helped found, Apple had lost $120 million on revenues of $2.1 billion.

Once Tim Cook joined Job's new leadership team as the SVP of Worldwide Operations, Cook took decisive action. He closed factories, reduced inventory from months to days, and developed contract relationships that insured a steady and reliable stream of the latest technological equipment required by Apple.

After Jobs and Cooks first year, Apple reported a profit of $45 million as the stock rose to $19/share. Today Apple's revenues are $182 billion and its share price (based on that 1998 figure) is $830/share.

After graduating from Auburn and receiving his MBA from Duke University Cook spent the next 12 years in supply chain at IBM. He worked as a Chief Operating Officer of Intelligent Electronics before briefly becoming VP of Corporate Materials at Compaq. At Apple, his career had been one of being "the guy behind the scenes," a classic "#2" but his

effectiveness and contributions did not go unnoticed. When Jobs, who was always good at finding and developing talent, learned of his own diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he handpicked Tim Cook to be his successor. This was due in part to Cook's business acumen but equally important to Cook's understanding of Apple's social mission, which he saw as "advancing humanity" through technology.

When Tim Cook was 10 years old, he was riding his bike around his small rural Alabama neighborhood and came across a home where a large cross was burning on the front lawn. He knew the home belonged to a black family. When he saw Klansmen dressed in white cloaks and hoods and throwing rocks through windows, he yelled "Stop!" When one of the Klansmen lifted his hood, Cook recognized him as a deacon in one of the neighborhood churches. Seeing that burning cross so affected Cook that he decided then and there that he would always commit himself to the importance of respecting human rights and dignity.

Tim Cook's management style is more hands off than Jobs. In developing the new iWatch, Cook focused more on the broader implications of how this product could enhance health and well being, leaving Apple's classic concerns of function and design to its engineers and artists. At a recent shareholder meeting when a shareholder complained about Apple's commitment to environmentally sound practices, he responded that Apple "will do things because they are just and right." He went on to say that if shareholders wanted him to make decision solely based on ROI, then they should probably sell their shares of Apple.

Tim Cook's recent public announcement of his being gay brought his commitment to human rights right into the forefront of corporate management. While perhaps not taking as much courage as it might have several years ago, his assertion that being gay was one of the most wonderful things that had ever happened to him demonstrates a kind of truth-telling that is unprecedented in the corporate world or anywhere else for that matter.

Tim Cook expects to make Apple the greatest company the world has ever seen. His efforts at doing so will be different from Steve Jobs who did it through meticulous management and an eye for marketing and design. Tim Cook will do it by focusing on doing the right thing to help create a more just world. This just may leave Apple and the world, a lot better off.

Each day we bring our greatest talents and commitments to our workplace but we often fail to see how our values and our belief in what is right as relevant to how we perform our job. Tim Cook shows us that these basic values are all about our work and efforts to improve the world. Consider taking count of your most important principles and find a place for them each and every day.



Among the many gifts we miss in our everyday life is our taking time for poetry. Billy Collins was the US Poet Laureate in the early days of this century and in this sweet TED Talk he muses about what several of his dog friends (probably) are thinking. Enjoy a moment to consider what your canines may be thinking.


Upcoming Events


Your First Step for Your 2015 Planning

2015 is shaping up to be a big year with numerous coaching and consulting projects already scheduled. I'll be taking some time over the next few weeks to fill out my calendar for the new year and the first task I'll be undertaking will be to make sure that I have my vacations scheduled into my calendar. I think it is essential to make sure that our calendars include the time we must have for rest and restoration so that we can effectively deliver the value and excellence that our clients and companies deserve.

Million Dollar Consulting Convention

If you are contemplating beginning a consulting practice or are just interested in how global thought leaders develop and implement their business, then I would encourage you to attend Alan Weiss's Million Dollar Consulting Convention this March in Atlanta. As many of you know, I've been working with Alan for close to 5 years and I consider much of my success attributable to his teaching and mentoring. Among his speakers will be Dr. Martin Seligman, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist who has developed much of the thinking on positive psychology and resilience. This three day conference will be action packed and you will walk away with a million ideas that will help your grow as a professional.