The Culture, Performance & Leadership Blog

Disruptive Times Demand Disruptive Thinking

Written by Susan Topping Gauthier, Partner-Owner

One of my favorite quotes from a contemporary master of business success reads “Embrace reality and deal with it.” As with many such words of wisdom, it is easier said than done.

The author is Ray Dalio, and the quotation is a chapter heading in his book Principles (Simon and Schuster, ©2017). CIO Magazine refers to Dalio as “the Steve Jobs of investing” pointing to his acclaim for building the largest hedge fund in the world1. His book is a compilation of unconventional principles in life and in work that he says he learned over a lifetime of making a lot of mistakes and spending a lot of time reflecting on them. In other words, Dalio is someone who took on his personal experience of reality and sought to bring his best thinking to bear on the matter at hand.

Similarly, we find that great leaders are both willing and able to take on their personal experience of reality.


Image of the final minutes of the February 2021 landing of Perseverance, Nasa’s Mars rover.

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech, via

Seven Minutes of Terror

Written by Toni Kendall & Michele Clay

February 2021…
293 million miles away…
A journey of 6 months…
Travelling at 12,000 miles per hour…
Carrying a mini helicopter on its back…

…Perseverance, NASA’s Mars Rover went barreling through space to the point of having seven minutes to decelerate to Zero mph, and stick the landing on the surface of Mars – and it did!  This is the fifth perfect landing on Mars for NASA. That is five out of five for NASA since 1997.

The “Seven Minutes of Terror” were the seven minutes Perseverance entered Mars’ atmosphere; NASA had no radio signals to know if it would burn up, crash or safely land.

If the engineers at NASA had not “stuck the landing” on Mars, they would have burned up $2.7 billion in seconds!

What NASA accomplished is a demonstration of what real excellence is in organizations.


Being Extraordinary No Matter What

Co-Authored by Mark Kamin, Marcea Wolf-Carter, and Kenda-Le Pernin

In our last blog, An Opportunity: The Crucible of Covid, we left you with a question:

“What new context could you create for yourself and your organization that would displace the future that is uncertain with a future you create?”

Managers and leaders must have a context they generate that calls the people they lead to fulfill something meaningful.*1

The context we created for our company is “being extraordinary no matter what.” That context shapes how our people look at the current circumstances. They got a new pair of eyes! They see the world as an opportunity to be great. Their actions mirror being great. The number of leads generated increased by several hundred percent. READ MORE

An Opportunity: The Crucible of Covid

By Mark Kamin, Marcea Wolf-Carter, and Kenda-Le Pernin

Our last blog, The Economy, Business Performance and People, discussed the impact of the “freak out” associated with the lock down of the America economy. And even though the economy has reopened, we strongly believe the fundamental impediments to performance for people and organizations have not disappeared. Perhaps, they have grown more daunting.

People in organizations are either trying to survive something that is threatening (like a very weak economy) OR, they are creating the possibility of excellence and high performance. As we said in our last blog, those that seize the moment now, will capture market share when the economy starts truly coming back early next year.  READ MORE

The Economy, Business Performance and People

Co-authored by Mark Kamin, Marcea Wolf-Carter and Kenda-Le Pernin

The stock market crashed in March 2020 and the spread of the coronavirus brought business to a halt. To say that America was gripped by anxiety is an incredible understatement.

Although we have unemployment levels that are close to the Great Depression unemployment levels, the situation is completely different. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the circumstances were exacerbated by the Hoover administration’s dramatic fiscal policy response … they cut spending which resulted in even more job losses across the country. In contrast, President Roosevelt poured money into the economy by financing the New Deal and all of the work projects that created millions of jobs. Apparently we learned the lesson from the early 1930s. Trillions and trillions of dollars have been pumped into the world economy, stimulating employment, spending, and creating confidence in the future. We are not in a Great Depression and we are not going to be in a Great Depression. Read More…

How to Have Employees Fully Engaged and Nurtured by What They are Doing

Written collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

In the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace study, Gallup found that 67% of employees do not like their jobs or where they work. Employees overwhelmingly only work to get a paycheck. There is a particular culture that goes with that kind of mindset – where employees are not fully engaged, nor are they fulfilled by the work they do.

When people are really engaged – where their workplace belongs to them in much the same way it belongs to the shareholders, they have a stake in the success of the organization – a real stake. They become STAKE-HOLDERSRead More…

How Your Culture Is Guaranteeing Weak Performance

Written collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

The current paradigm for organizations guarantees weak performance. (And you are either blind to it or perpetuating it.)

The current paradigm for business is to maximize shareholder return. This is an obvious consequence of the need for investors to receive a fair return on their capital.  Read More…

How to Build Your Organization as a Highly Valuable, Sustainable Asset – Part 2

Written collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

In part one of this two-part blog post, we distinguished how, in the ordinary world of business, the hidden context in which businesses seek to perform – is to maintain and enhance shareholder return; and only after that is done, then the company can look at the care of the employees and customers.

In part two we are going to look at the kind of sustainable growth that can result in supporting all of an organizations’ primary constituencies: Employees, Customers, and Stakeholders – all at the same time.  Read more…

How to Build Your Organization as a Highly Valuable, Sustainable Asset – Part 1

Written collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

rawpixel-com-558597-unsplash-250pxIn the ordinary everyday world of business there is a lot of lip service to building great places for employees to work and really serving customers and the community. However, in reality, almost always a business is organized – in the way the business runs – to take care of shareholder return …and then to take care of everything else. In other words, whether its obvious or not, the hidden context in which businesses seek to perform is to maintain shareholder return.

This paradigm is, in fact, detrimental to long-term shareholder value. The real asset of any organization is its people; and the way those people interface with the customer.

As a leader, if I do not put employee fulfillment as important as shareholder return, I guarantee that employees will not own the performance of the business. Read more…

The Conspiracy to Call “Pretty Good” – “GREAT”

athlete-1840437_1280-250pxWritten collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

There is a conspiracy that you are unwittingly a part of…

That conspiracy is an unspoken agreement to be ordinary; to have ordinary performance and an ordinary life. This unspoken agreement is reinforced through having interactions with others be about “being nice” or “not being pushy” or some other version of that, rather than having interactions be about being effective. Being effective requires, among other things, extraordinary communication.  Read more…

How to Organize Your Brain for High Performance


Written collaboratively by Michele Clay & Mark Kamin

Why even discuss High Performance? Why does it matter?

The first thing you might think of when you hear the term High Performance is car racing or being able to do something more, better or faster, waste less time; in other words, improve on what you are already doing.

This is not what we mean by High Performance. What we mean by High Performance is in a context of real Excellence. Read more…

Michael C. Jensen on Integrity as a Competitive Advantage in Business

MJensen_Commencement2-300x230Integrity is the Foundation of a Great Life, Great Leadership, and a Great Organization

At Mark Kamin & Associates, we believe that defining integrity as honoring one’s word as oneself provides individuals and organizations with the ultimate competitive advantage. One example of an approach to organizational performance we endorse is the work of Michael C. Jensen, Harvard Business School, Jessie Isidor Strauss Professor Emeritus.

Mr. Jensen, along with Werner Erhard, spelled out this approach to organizational performance in the white paper titled “Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics, and Legality – Abridged” (found on SSRN), and in the commencement address at the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University Commencement Ceremonies, May 21, 2011.