Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June

6, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

WOW! Your Way Up the Ladder

Business guru Tom Peters’ writing style takes

some getting used to. A sample: How about a Renewal Buddy? (Spouse

is fine.) Work with him/her on a pretty explicit Growth/Learning Plan.

(Hey, pharmaceutical companies live . . . or die . . . from massive

injections of R&D. Obviously. You, too. Less obviously. Just as


And that example is tame, minus the red letters, stretches of boldface

type, and strings of exclamation points that pepper much of his prose.

Peters is nothing if not enthusiastic. His first blockbuster book

was "In Search of Excellence," and was aimed mostly at


and owners. His latest series, on re-inventing work, speaks to cubicle

dwellers in short bursts, urging them to hop up and excel — at

everything. The new books are The Brand You50, The Project50, and

The Professional Service Firm50. The books preach the WOW! principle,

basically a form of knock-em-dead, but on steroids.

In addition to writing, Peters is a popular public speaker, and it

is easy to see why corporations are willing to shell out hundreds

of dollars a day to have their employees zapped by his enthusiasm.

For while he disparages loyalty to any particular company, he enobles

routine corporate tasks, telling office dwellers to make even their

most humble projects shout (what else?) WOW!

So much in demand is Peters that he has cloned himself, in a manner

of speaking, into the Tom Peters Company. Representatives of that

company speak on "The WOW! Projects" during a two-day workshop

beginning on Thursday, June 7, at 8 a.m. at Mercer County Community

College. Cost: $695. Call 609-586-4800.

In his new books, Peters, a graduate of Cornell who holds an MBA and

a Ph.D. from Stanford, breaks down his principles into 50 short


and divides each of them into high-energy info-bites. Taken together,

the books add up to a credo, whose tenets include: The Work Can Be

Cool! Y-O-U Can Make a Difference and Rip Up Your Dilbert Cartoons!

Here are excerpts from the Brand You50:

Express Your Inner Martha Stewart. Most of us — save

Martha Stewart and a handful of others — don’t think of ourselves

as "a package." Mistake! Everybody is a package. ("He’s

a ball of fire." "She’s a pistol." "He’s the biggest

bore I’ve ever met.") The trick for Brand You is making sure you

control your package and the message it sends.

Step No. 1: Go to the grocery. (No kidding.) Look at packages that

grab — literally — your attention. And those that don’t. The

ones that do (I bet) have: Energy! Vitality! Clarity! Economy!


Trustworthiness! Beauty and scintillating design! Not a bad set of

traits for thee or me/Brand You, eh?

I can hear what you’re muttering: Flashy? Me? That’s not me! What

am I supposed to do? See a surgeon? Get a personality transplant?


Fact is . . . excuse the statement of the obvious . . . you have a

personality. (Ask your close friends!) One of the (big Brand You


problems: Many/most of us suppress our personalities between nine

and five. We’re afraid to show just how quirky we really are. So we

snuff out our spontaneity and eccentricities . . . and nurture


resentments toward the boss and/or our co-workers . . . that manifest

themselves as passive aggression. Like doing a half-ass job. Guess

who gets hurt the most? (Hint: It ain’t the boss.)

Which brings me back to Packaging. Because Packaging is Expressed

Personality. For Ford. For Fidelity. For Harvard. And Brown. And


And for me. And . . . for you.

Embrace Crummy Jobs.

Golden Rule: Any-Damn-Task-Can-Be-Turned-to-Gold . . . with


(Don’t let on, but this is key: You don’t need the


project.) (Trust me. Please: In Search of Excellence emerged from

a project in which no one put any faith . . . or initial resources.)

It’s the "little," "unwanted" job — SHAPE UP OUR


can literally unlock Pandora’s WOW!/Profitable Box.

And the Seriously Cool Ones invariably start from Innocent/Small/Wee

Beginnings. (Yes, invariably!) Papers to mark the hymns to be sung

fell out of his hymnal. An itch (little) to be scratched. Voila (15

or so years later): a billion $$$ Post-it product line for 3M.

It’s all a matter of attitude. Crappy assignment? Or Opportunity No.

1? (No one’s watching . . . precisely because it’s a "crappy


Volunteer for Rotten Jobs!

Next time a "crappy" "little" task pops up . . . take

it. Gleefully. Redefine it. Make it OH SO C-O-O-L. In fact, don’ wait

for a crappy little task to slither into your lap. Seek one out!


Clear the Decks for Work. Y-O-U A-R-E Y-O-U-R


If Brand You is about your Signature WOW Projects . . and it is .

. . then you must somehow (consult the Time Management gurus) weed

out the 96(!) percent of distractions . . . and


WOW Project (come Bloody Hell and Bloody High Water). We all know

folks who are going to . . . start a business . . . write a book .

. . learn to skydive . . build a house . . . as soon as they "find

the time." (expletive deleted) When you CARE you MAKE the time

. . . and if that means saying "No!" to your friends, your

spouse, your kids (hey, I never said there would be no sacrifices),

well, there it is!


It’s hackneyed: But "it" is all we have. I went on some


early this morning. Two of the stores I stopped at were not open .

. . though their published hours said they were supposed to be. I

was furious. (Far more furious than the "little" lapse


But I’m writing a damn book! (Actually . . . three.) T-I-M-E! It’s

a-l-l I’ve got. (A-L-L: DO YOU UNDERSTAND?) Brand You = Time


Brand You = Time Fetish. Brand You = Obsession with Time.

Sell yourself. Sure, I know a lot of fine/gifted/WOW-ing

folks aren’t great at sales . . . makes them uncomfortable as all

get out. They hate the idea of "pushing" themselves. They’re

shy, reticent, just want to concentrate on the work. All I can say

is: Ya gotta do it. (Sales, that is.)

Create a Clean/Clear/Crisp/Compelling "Selling


(It’s as important for Mary Jones, accountant, as for Calvin Klein.)

Do you "obsess" — right word! — on "Sales"?

Please take this s-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y. The Best "senior partners"

at the Big Professional Service Firms are as Sales Oriented as Da

Guy who sells Used Cars.


It’s the gospel truth for accountants at Arthur Andersen . . . and

for software programmers at Oracle . . and, of course, for Martha


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