Ho‘ohana Community, meet Laurence Haughton

One of the suggestions I’d put in 7 More Ways to get the most from Books, is to use the power of the internet to look up the author. One of the great things about the blog communities we frequent, is that we discover the more approachable authors by happy serendipity. They like blogs. They even write about them.

How Blogs can help businesses Follow Through
by Laurence Haughton, author of It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do

Laurence Haughton first popped on my radar in early April of last year. I had been invited to be a Guest Author on the 800-CEO-Read blog, and Laurence had been on their program just before me. I liked his articles, but to be honest, I was just checking out what my predecessors there had done in their own guest appearances, and I didn’t give his ideas the focus they deserved.

Laurence is a very generous commenter, and he continued to get my attention because after that, his name kept popping up on a lot of the same blogs I like to visit. I’d read what he had to say, and inevitably I found I was nodding my head in agreement with him about virtually everything. I also started hoping he’d end up here on Talking Story one day.

Well, patience is not one of my virtues.

So one day I got brave and I sent Laurence an email. I say “brave” because I hadn’t even read his book yet— pretty unusual for me. He answered me immediately, and to my great delight, I have discovered that Laurence Haughton is a very gracious guy. He’s the kind of person who, as Stacy says, will “meet you in the middle.”

As I shared with you yesterday, I have now read his very terrific book, It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do, and I’ve ordered the first one he co-wrote with Jason Jennings, ”it’s not the BIG that eat the SMALL, it’s the FAST that eat the SLOW. For in my reading and in talking story with him, I have also discovered that Laurence is not just a terrific editor when he does his research (there is tons of it in his book): he’s an intuitively smart coach, very passionate about getting people in business to follow up on the important strategies with which we can share our purpose” our ho‘ohana. This is his:

“My mission is to experience ‘the thrill of leading others to their full potential.’   I’ve always loved cracking the code ”“ figuring out the fastest path to someone’s heart’s desire and then helping them get there easier and faster than they could on their own.”

Now how can you not connect with someone who feels that way about you?

I am still hoping that Laurence starts to comment here and meet the rest of you in our Ho‘ohana Community, for we can all use his coaching and we’re passionate about cracking the code too! We’re also pretty fascinating subjects for more of his research”

For today, a magnificent start: meet Laurence via the interview he so generously gave me for this February’s Love Affair with Books. If you have more questions, add them in the comments, and make your own discoveries :-)

Rosa: Laurence I read the history of It’s Not What You Say… It’s What You Do within the interview you did with another in our Ho‘ohana Community, Yvonne DiVita. Can you first bring us up to date with how the book has made an impact on what you currently are doing now? What is your mission?

Laurence: My mission is to experience “the thrill of leading others to their full potential.”   I’ve always loved cracking the code ”“ figuring out the fastest path to someone’s heart’s desire and then helping them get there easier and faster than they could on their own.

Currently I am living that mission” by working as a doctor of “follow through.”   You bring me your team’s or (company’s) big objectives, no matter what shape you’re in, and I’ll give you the prescription that makes sure you what you need from your managers and their teams.

The biggest impact from my two year investigation for the book was showing me out how wrong I was about the fundamentals of successful execution, especially about what not to do if you’re serious about getting others to follow through.

Rosa: What are those what not to do’s?

Laurence: For example I believed people didn’t execute as planned because managers don’t insist on pinpoint accountability and consequences for not following through.   But I learned that for many jobs pinpoint accountability is too much and consequences are counterproductive to getting what’s expected done.   That became the foundation for the chapter “Find the Line between Enough and Too Much Accountability.”

I had the same thing happen with my preconceptions about top bosses and clear objectives.   Correcting my mistaken belief led me to write the chapter “Read Between the Lines.”

Rosa: Readers know that I make a definite distinction between management and leadership. In the research you did for your book, did you see any differences between the two when it comes to their effect on follow-up in our organizational cultures? What are you continuing to see now? In the traditional hierarchies within which organizations tend to stratify (leaders higher, managers lower) how does top leadership need to support the follow-up efforts of their managers?

Laurence: You are right, leadership is very different from managing, and execution needs a special kind of leader.   It needs a “champion.”   That’s the best word I think for understanding who should lead the follow through.   And that person must be chosen carefully, making sure they have the right make-up.   All leaders are not champions but all champions are leaders if that makes sense.

I found someone who taught me how to select the right “champion” and who introduced me to a woman who was (in his expert opinion)   the perfect example.   Her story tells readers all they need to know about the differences between “managing” and “championing” the follow through.

Rosa: The word underestimation jumped out at me a few times in your book, causing me to think about focus. The self-assessment on page 113 by Home Depot’s Bob Nardelli was one good example. I am seeing that so much of auto-pilot (which I have referred to as one of the 3 sins in management) and the ‘drag’ which stalls business initiatives is the scatter-shot approach. Would you agree that we best return to quality versus quantity in our strategic initiatives, or is there another answer?

Laurence: In my first book, It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small”It’s the FAST that Eat the Slow – How to use speed as a competitive tool in business I discovered how to think quicker and get things done faster.   One surprise in my research was how much time we waste in “do-overs” – doing some task or initiative for a second (or tenth) time because someone confused “haste” with speed.   Speed is a fundamental of competitive advantage in business, but haste wastes resources and drags us down.   We need to separate the two and then work on our velocity.

But there’s nothing slow about the building blocks of flawless follow through I discovered, except for the time that it takes to convince some managers to stop doing what science and experience proves cause failures. Two out of three managers are using tactics prone to fail. There’s an old joke: A man goes to the doctor and says, “Doctor it hurts when I do this.”   “Then don’t do that,” says the doctor. Fast follow through starts when managers stop using tactics prone to fail.

Rosa: Are we expecting too much from managers? How should we be better supporting them in ways that will set them up for better success?

Laurence: Asking too much” no.   Not worrying enough about what people need from us (especially as top executives)”absolutely.   One big thing we could do is get much better at giving feedback.   Everyone is starving for feedback.   But your opinions alone are not necessarily good feedback.   In the book I provide a simple formula for highly effective feedback.   In fact I was told that upper executives all “need some feedback about their feedback.”   That would help them and their teams a lot.

Rosa: I love business books which are ripe for in-depth study, and yours is one of them. You offer some great templates. With my own book, Managing with Aloha, I have often told those who profess to be non-readers to just start with the Daily 5 Minutes on page 145 as the one best tool, bar none, I can offer them. Do you have a similar pointer for your own favorite in It’s Not What You Say… It’s What You Do — your own recommendation for a best practice?

Laurence: I wrote the book so that anyone could pick up any chapter and learn what to do to overcome one obstacle, or improve just one thing.   So if you read “Create a Hot Team” you know what to do.   If you read, “Get Find a Champion” you know enough to make a good choice for leader.   So a reader who asks “how do I hire the right attitudes?” can flip to the chapter “Hire Attitudes Over Experience” and it’s all there.   They don’t have to read the whole book.

Rosa: No favorite? Is there anything you consider a momentum builder? What is your recommendation for the manager in overwhelm who needs a quick taste of success? Where do they start?

Laurence: No favorite.   For me book chapters are like my children” you love them all” really.   But if you’re new to leading a team I’d say start with “Create a Hot Team.”   If you are concerned about a new initiative I’d say “Outmaneuver the CAVE People” is the place to start.

Rosa: In one of my favorite parts of your book, you brought my attention back to something we’ve all heard before but simply don’t use enough: Asking “Why?” Five Times, first introduced on pages 46-47, and then with Nancy’s terrific example on pages 76-77. My own Nancy story was with the Alaka‘i Nalu: their “lost cause” ended up bringing so much of MWA to completion for me. However in coaching I have also seen this self-questioning can be very difficult for us to wade through. How else can managers learn when to dig in, and when to “Just Let Go?”

Laurence: Managers try to do everything by themselves” like they’re all alone.   Self questioning is a great skill but you need help especially at the beginning. It’s nearly impossible to go from good manager to great leader without support and feedback from a mentor or coach.

Take finding the line between digging in and letting go.   It depends on the situation.   You need help finding the line.   In the book you’ll read about managers who have a trusted assistant who gives them advice, others who have a boss who’s a mentor.   Don’t try to go it alone” leadership development is always a collaboration.

Rosa: When I read about “cool manager” Tom Kelley’s approach to having performance appraisals done by peers at IDEO (pages 143-144) I had to smile, remembering how you and I found ourselves in the same comment conversations on annual reviews at Lisa Haneberg’s Management Craft. Can you talk a bit more about the “peer-oriented meritocracy?” How is this concept different from the 360 degree review?

Laurence: Tom Kelley’s approach is just so natural and common sensical.   It is 360 degree feedback without all the jargon and the stiffness.   You can also see what another great champion Elizabeth Caflisch achieved using 360 degree feedback in the chapter “Lead a Hot Team.”

She and Tom both led the kinds of teams where people accomplish amazing things and nobody has to breathe down their neck.

Peer-oriented simply means that the people who work with you know your performance better than HR or a boss (especially when a teammate is a “Eddie Haskell” type as Tom pointed out.   So you need peer input if your performance review is going to actually improve performance.   Sure you have to make sure their input is free from hidden agendas but bosses and HR often have their own hidden agendas.   So peer appraisals take no longer that conventional ones.

Rosa: I am SO with you on writing things down for so many reasons! It’s a straight-forward, should-be-obvious tactic that I have found managers don’t employ enough because of the grading papers effect: They’ll have to read it if they ask for it! How can we inculcate this practice in our work cultures yet not sabotage it when our people realize we may not necessarily intend to read it. How do we sell the benefit versus perceived busy work?

Laurence: I’d start by reading it and helping whoever wrote it to make the second draft much better.   It takes some time but I find people need my feedback.   They need my help learning to be more clear and accurate” two big benefits of writing over talking.   So if you want your people to use the tool you are going to have to commit to read their first draft and give good feedback.   After you get them started it takes less time (and less feedback) but you can’t get this done on ”what word did you use before? Oh yeah, autopilot!

Rosa: Laurence, in Managing with Aloha I write about values in another way for managers to be aware of how they stimulate behavior. I believe value management can be universally applied, however I also agree with you, that one “can’t throw out vague concepts like “passion” and “the right conditions,” along with general directives like “have values” and “be humanistic.” (page 177) How can values specifically be harnessed in engendering an organizational culture which follows up consistently and more effectively?

Laurence: There are three B’s for successful business in the 21st century ”“ beliefs, boundaries, and a balanced scorecard.   Beliefs are your purpose (why you and your organization exist) and the values that are your character (what others use to predict what to expect from you).   Guiding principles create your boundaries (helping others in the company know which tactics are okay).   And a balanced scorecard is all the accountability, data, and metrics designed so leaders can make sure that what’s expected and necessary gets properly done, or when not, that it is quickly recognized and rectified.

But it all starts with beliefs ”“ your purpose, and your values.   And all businesses have values, even those who act like they have no values.   After all if you “value” the almighty dollar above everything and believe the purpose of business is to make money” your character is very clear.   Think of all the characters from literature and history who valued money over everything else.   We all know what to expect from such a person.   And most astute businesspeople can “smell it” when they meet you.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t think making money is critical and making lots of money is a wonderful outcome.   I do.   But it is not my purpose nor is it the purpose of a business.

What I believe (thanks to Ted Levitt):   The purpose of a business is to find, keep, and grow the “right” customers.

To do that an organization has to produce and deliver goods or services that people want and value at costs and under conditions that are sufficiently attractive (when compared to the alternatives) to a proportion of customers large enough to make those costs and conditions possible.

To continue to do that an organization must produce revenues in excess of its costs in sufficient quantity and with sufficient regularity to attract and hold investors.

No organization, no matter how small, can do that by accident or mere instinct.   It must clarify its strategies and tactics (through the three Bs) and then follow through!

Rosa: What’s next for you Laurence? I can’t help but ask you a question I get quite a bit too – and I want to hear your answer to it! Knowing all of this, the wealth of can-do, and can-do it better strategies that you have outlined in your book for more effective follow-through, why don’t you have the hunger to do it yourself in the next star-quality company, and lead by example? Or do you?

Laurence: I have two guiding principles for deciding what’s next.   First comes from an ancient definition of leadership, “A leader finds a parade, and gets in front.” That doesn’t mean leaders don’t innovate but it reminds leaders to stay so close to the marketplace so that they can see parades in formation.   Then they can muster the resources to take others where they’d like to go but won’t go on their own.   The marketplace tells you what’s next.   In my case I’m listening right now!

My second guiding principle is from Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” So certainly I am looking for opportunities to lead by example and mentor as many others as I can.

Rosa: And dear readers, that is exactly what Laurence is doing!

Mark February 28th on your calendars (9:00am PST) when Laurence will be the guest speaker on a Microsoft Office LiveMeeting called The Art of Follow Through: How to make sure that every team executes successfully. Details are here for you to sign up and learn more about the webinar.

My Book Review: It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do

Amazon.com links for Laurence’s books:

It’s Not What You Say” It’s What You Do

It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small”It’s the FAST that Eat the Slow

Laurence’s website.


  1. Rick Fuqua says

    I feel connected to the topics of Laurence’s books. I will be adding these titles to my library.
    Thanks for a great interview Rosa.

  2. says

    Branding fame, the ability to provoke, and degrees of follow-up

    Branding fame and the ability to provoke. That’s what marketing guru Seth Godin has now. His recent blog offering is called, Is good enough enough, and it is similar to many speeches I have heard from great bosses who have