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The 8 Steps to Authentic Leadership

The 8 Steps to Authentic Leadership
Sep 04, 2011 by August Turak


Sooner or later every leader realizes that 99% of the people he depends on for success don’t report to him.  Authentic leadership relies on persuasion and persuasion relies on trust. Trust is the most important asset that any organization, brand, product, leader, or individual can have.  Most importantly, trust is not a scarce resource. We can all have more than we need.  However, trust is fragile: Once squandered it is often impossible to regain.  Here are 8 ways to guarantee that you, your product, your brand, and your company will always be trusted. *     *     * Several months after taking a new job as head of sales and marketing...

Goosebump Leadership and the Death of the Big Idea

Goosebump Leadership and the Death of the Big Idea
Aug 14, 2011 by August Turak
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard…” - John F. Kennedy

If you put me behind a telescope I would be hard pressed to find the night sky, let alone Venus. But notwithstanding an astronomical education largely limited to cable TV, when I fantasize about what I would do with Bill Gate’s or Warren Buffet’s money, I often think I would fund space exploration.

People are often surprised by this admission. First they ask what space exploration has to do with my philosophy of service and selflessness or my interest in mystical spirituality.  Then they flourish their trump card: “Don’t you...

Why Adam Smith Was Only Half Right

Why Adam Smith Was Only Half Right
Aug 07, 2011 by August Turak
When Adam Smith argued that human beings are essentially selfish he was not wrong but only half right.  Sure, every baby starts out screaming “Mine, Mine, MINE!,” but while some of us will remain more selfish than others, we all move toward selflessness as we mature. In fact immaturity in adults is usually defined as being “spoiled;” which is just another term for self-indulgent selfishness. In other words the very process of maturation is a journey leading us beyond the innate selfishness we are all born with. Adam Smith was only half right because he didn’t realize that as human beings we are all longing to selflessly “give ourselves away” to something so much bigger and more important than ourselves.

While at...

Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons
Jul 31, 2011 by August Turak
For most people life is a smooth mountain of marble without hand or footholds. If you don’t go to the right school, know the right people, or follow the right procedures, nothing is possible. For my Dad life was a Swiss cheese so full of holes that anyone with a little creativity and moxie is welcome to clamber up.



It always helps to have a guru. When it comes to guerrilla marketing, I sat at the feet and very early in my career on the lap of a master: my old man. I grew up the oldest of eight in a 950 square foot ranch house just outside Pittsburgh. The son of Slovak immigrants, my father was a born hustler, and...

Leadership Lessons from an Unsung Hero

Leadership Lessons from an Unsung Hero
Jul 24, 2011 by August Turak
The stresses of high-altitude mountain climbing reveal your true character; they unmask who you really are. You no longer have the social graces to hide behind, to play roles. You are the essence of what you are. - David Breashears Mrs. Kavita Kapur Hall and Mr. James "Jay" Hall Last Saturday was one of the happiest days in my life. My former business partner, Jay Hall, got married to a wonderful woman who used to be one of my students. The marriage took place over a beautiful weekend, in beautiful Charleston, SC, and I was honored to be asked to say a few words about Jay at the rehearsal dinner.  Since no one more completely epitomizes my leadership philosophy of service and selflessness,...

Can Creativity Be Taught?

Can Creativity Be Taught?
Jul 17, 2011 by August Turak
Every great leader is a creative leader. If creativity can be taught how is it done?

In the early 1980s I was trundling along on a New York subway with a colleague when he suddenly said, “14, 18, 23, 28, 34.  What is the next number in this series?”

For the next ten minutes I manfully tried to figure out the mathematical relationship among these numbers. Finally, as we stepped off the subway I admitted I was stumped.  My colleague, with a devilish grin, merely pointed at 42 emblazoned on the wall of the subway station. We had just travelled from 14th to 42nd Street, and it had never occurred to me that the answer was a stop on the subway.  I...

8 Ways to Turn Partnerships into Profits

8 Ways to Turn Partnerships into Profits
Jul 10, 2011 by August Turak
Every potential partnership has two customers and every successful partnership delights them both.

Very few companies have the resources and know-how to successfully produce products and also distribute them. While this constraint weighs most heavily on cash strapped start-ups, even a behemoth like Microsoft sells through distributors and Heinz relies on Kroger to pump out its best-selling ketchup.

In a marketplace gone global, productive partnerships are more crucial than ever. Partnering has become so critical that the word “coopetition” had to be coined to describe companies that partner in some areas while competing in others. Yet very few partnerships ever deliver on their symbiotic promise. Why?

The single biggest mistake we make in our partnership efforts is selling potential partners as if they...

Is a Harvard Degree Worth It?

Is a Harvard Degree Worth It?
Jul 03, 2011 by August Turak
At 14 I won a scholarship to an exclusive New England boarding school where I proceeded to get my butt kicked. All the tools I brought from a large, lower middle class, family from Pittsburgh promptly failed me. I was absolutely miserable for the first two years as I staggered through a stream of failures in sports, academics, and making friends. And though I genuinely enjoyed my senior year, I still had to pass my final exam in math to graduate—which I apparently did albeit with the lowest passing grade. When the headmaster handed me my diploma he smiled and whispered, “You never thought you’d make it, did you Augie?” as my classmates erupted in cheers for the underdog.

I recently...

Building Gorilla Companies with Guerrilla Marketing

Building Gorilla Companies with Guerrilla Marketing
Jun 05, 2011 by August Turak
Cover via Amazon I made my bones in guerrilla marketing when I was just 11. I was at summer camp when the powers that be announced a scavenger hunt. There were 100 items on the list from bottle caps to paper clips, and the first camper to deliver them all was slated for a couple dozen candy bars. However, when the list was handed out, I didn't join the mad rush for the door that immediately ensued. Instead, I gathered the other boys who shared my cabin and suggested we divide the list, win the contest, and split the candy bars. In no time flat I presented all 100 items to a group of stunned and unsuspecting camp administrators. And a few minutes later...

Let Go of My Ego

Let Go of My Ego
May 30, 2011 by August Turak
In 2002 three of my brothers were snowmobiling in the mountains of Colorado when, snow blinded by a sudden squall, they daisy chained over a 400 foot cliff. One of my brothers, Jamie, was killed. Dan and Tom badly injured and frost bitten, spent all night at 14,000 feet in the -40° temperature and -60° wind chill that sent several rescue workers to the hospital.

Arriving at the Denver airport, I will never forget the stacks of searing newspaper headlines that greeted my father, my brother Jon, and I. Headlines insisting that there had been no mistake as we made our way to the hospital and eventually, the morgue.

Tom and Dan eventually recovered and Dan returned to work as an executive with...

Three Steps to Making Better Decisions

Three Steps to Making Better Decisions
May 23, 2011 by August Turak
I’m four years older than my brother Tom and though we couldn’t be more different, he is also my best friend. They say great fighter pilots don’t climb into jets they wrap jets around them, and so it is with Tom and spreadsheets. As a partner in our entrepreneurial start-up, Tom was our ace number cruncher; constantly cranking out the analytics we needed to run the business.

One day he came into my office and almost shyly said, “I’ve been trying to figure out how you make decisions for six years. I still don’t know how you do it, but I have to admit you’re almost always right. What’s the secret?”

Coming from a younger brother this was high praise indeed, but...

The Prisoner's Dilemma: The Key to Creativity

The Prisoner's Dilemma: The Key to Creativity
May 16, 2011 by August Turak
I was having lunch with one of my clients, the CEO of a rapidly growing mid-size company, when I casually asked for his job description.

He smiled and said, “Well, if you followed me around you’d probably think I do lots of things. But I only have one job. I build passion. Most people think talent is in short supply. Hell, the papers are full of stories about regular folks working miracles when something they really care about is on the line. Talent is not in short supply. Passion is. My job is showing people that what we’re doing is worth doing. I provide the whys so our people can provide the hows. Once passion is in place,” he said with...

8 Keys to Innovation: Building Brands by Killing Frogs

8 Keys to Innovation: Building Brands by Killing Frogs
May 09, 2011 by August Turak
Every once in a while I read something that is just so cool that I wish I was smart enough to write it. Method: Eight Things Stand-Up Comedy Teaches Us About Innovation by Paul Valerio is just such a piece.

Unfortunately, knowing about something usually doesn’t mean we’re any good at it. But Valerio’s piece is one of those rare works on innovation and creativity that is actually innovative and creative. Marshall McLuhan taught us that the medium is the message, and Valerio’s insights into comedy, products, and brands are so seamlessly intertwined that I was left wondering whether I was reading a great comedian’s take on innovation or a great marketing pro’s take on comedy.

Valerio’s use of comedy to shed...

The Missing Elephant in the Bedroom

The Missing Elephant in the Bedroom
May 02, 2011 by August Turak
Jack Welch, GE’s former CEO and leadership maven made headlines by castigating Hewlett Packard’s board for gross negligence in the wake of the scandal that cost CEO, Mark Hurd, his job. However it was not the scandal per se that drew his ire, but that HP had done such a poor job in succession planning and overall leadership development.

“The Hewlett-Packard board has committed sins over the last 10 years,” said Mr. Welch. “They have not done one of the primary jobs of a board, which is to prepare the next generation of leadership…They end up blowing up the CEO’s and don’t have anyone else in mind to come in. Where the hell was the leadership development?”

During his amazingly successful tenure...

Job One for Leaders

Job One for Leaders
Apr 25, 2011 by August Turak
One day a student approached a Zen Master.

“Master,” he said, “what is Zen?”

“Attention!” The Master replied.

“Yes Master, but what is Zen?”

“Attention! Attention!”

“Yes Master,” the young man repeated, “but what is Zen?”

“Attention, Attention, Attention!” The Master said and then he walked away. ♦           ♦           ♦ As CEO I always told job applicants that my primary job was increasing pressure while decreasing stress. Most people equate pressure with stress, but they are actually not synonymous. So what is the difference between pressure and stress?

When my loved one is undergoing a serious operation as I pace in the waiting room, the surgeon is under pressure while I am under stress. In this scenario both the surgeon...

5 Ways to Keep Prospects from Picking Your Pocket

5 Ways to Keep Prospects from Picking Your Pocket
Apr 18, 2011 by August Turak
As I moved from sales into management, I also moved from the sell side to the buy side of the proverbial “street.” And as a buyer I became involved in a strange ritual. At the end of each month my phone would ring incessantly as sales reps desperate for business eagerly tried to outdo each other offering me discounts.

Usually price had little or nothing to do with the fact that I was not ready to make a decision, but since these reps never bothered to ask, I felt no obligation to tell them. Instead I played along and usually negotiated an even lower price than they initially offered before finally telling them that the timing was just not right. Each...

3 Keys to Competing

3 Keys to Competing
Apr 11, 2011 by August Turak
When we consider “the competition” as other companies offering similar products we are only partially right. There are three levels to competition and our direct competitors are only the first and most obvious.

The second level of competition is indirect competition. In the early days of spreadsheets, VisiCalc and Lotus 123 were first to market. A Wall Street Journal article at the time argued that both companies were so busy competing with each other that they failed to notice that most people still didn’t think they needed any electronic spreadsheet. The challenge for both companies was not being the best spreadsheet, but generically selling the category “spreadsheets.”  VisiCalc’s competition was not just Lotus, but everything else besides spreadsheets that a client...

The Confession of a Serial Stereotyper: How to Stereotype Your Way to Success

The Confession of a Serial Stereotyper: How to Stereotype Your Way to Success
Apr 04, 2011 by August Turak
As a lifelong student of human nature I have some very strong opinions on the subject. As a result, I often meet people who flourish, “That’s a stereotype!” like a trump card. In a single stroke I’ve been found guilty not only of faulty logic but faulty morals as well.

I confess that I stereotype people all the time, and rather than trying to fix this nonexistent problem I spend most of my time trying to get better at it. Most business success depends on people skills. Sales, marketing, and management professionals must be able to accurately predict what others will do. In sales for example, I developed a stereotype for how a decision maker looked and smelled that served me...

It's Not What We Think but How We Think: 3 Leadership Lessons from the IBM Executive School

It's Not What We Think but How We Think: 3 Leadership Lessons from the IBM Executive School
Mar 28, 2011 by August Turak
About a year after we started our company an ice storm shut down the city. Yet despite some hilarious misadventures that were quickly embedded into our corporate mythos, we all made it to work.  Three days later I ran into a friend at the gym who worked for the state of North Carolina. Surprised to see him during business hours, he told me that state employees were still off for the ice storm.

“I don’t get it.” I blurted forgetting my manners. “You can’t get to work but you get to the gym?  We worked right through the ice storm.”

“You don’t care about your people,” he retorted obviously stung.

“No,” I said, “We care very deeply about our people. We just call...

Triangle AMA Event

Triangle AMA Event
Mar 10, 2011 by August Turak
On January 20th August Turak presented "Cutting Through the Noise: Turning Products and Services into Iconic Brands" at the Triangle Marketing Association luncheon in Raleigh, NC. Following the event, president of the Triangle AMA, Shane Johnston said: "We definitely recommend Augie for another event, including our own!" Comments from Attendees: Excellent presentation. Great verbal & visual examples to get points across. –Leigh McLeod, Bank of America

Much of this speaks to psychographics. The underlying emotions aspirations of the audience we seek to tap into as part of marketing. -Diane Staton Loved the Mad Men Clip – it really taught a good lesson & provided a good example. -Emma Finch, University Conference Services Great! I just wish we had more time. Maybe...