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spike bullet July 2002 - Executive Development

Executive Development and the Fates: A Case Study
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletExecutive Development 

"Anyone can be a millionaire, but to become a billionaire, you need an astrologer" 
J. P. Morgan, founder of the Morgan Bank. 

This month we profile another way of looking at business challenges.  Mixed with a strong dose of humor and an equally strong dose of creativity, Kenny Moore offers executives a chance to see things from a different perspective.  We hope our readers will keep an open mind when reading this article and enjoy a few laughs.  

Between the lines is a more serious message: things are not always as they seem, so lighten up and see what can happen when laughter blesses a situation.

color bulletExecutive Development and the Fates: A Case Study

By Kenny Moore

It starts with frustration

I�ve used 360-degree feedback with our executives.  They don�t like it.  

I�ve sat them down and delivered performance feedback.  They resent it.  

I�ve scheduled coaching sessions to remedy long-standing developmental problems.  They undermine it.  

Through a stroke of luck, I�ve discovered a more viable alternative: I now read them their Horoscopes.

I know it�s not professional.  Peter Senge would surely deride me.  And I don�t yet have statistical data to document it as a "Best Practice."  But it seems to work.  And I may be in good company: Nancy Reagan used it to help run the White House when things were dismal for Ron.  

So why not for executives with a somewhat smaller span of control than the entire USA?

Tragedy tomorrow; Comedy tonight

As with most of the business breakthroughs that I�ve stumbled upon, it all started quite by accident.  My astrologer friend gave me a copy of The Secret Language of Birthdays by Goldschneider and Elffers as a gift.  I read my profile (May 21st) and reeled back in shock.  It was uncomfortably � and hysterically � accurate.  There in public view were my strengths and weaknesses; my intentions as well as my outcomes.

I wondered: if this were true for me, might it be true for others?  What better place to test it out than with executives.  So at my next meeting with a long-standing cantankerous officer, I brought the book along.  A s he discussed his on-going antagonistic relationship with a higher-ranking exec, I squeezed out: "But of course you can�t stand her.  She�s a Leo and you�re an Aries."  

He looked at me with disdain, but some interest.  "What are you talking about?"  I went on to read him his horoscope describing his requisite strengths (powerful; inspirational; humorous) and his weaknesses (contentious; emotionally unstable; repressed).  Then I read him the profile of his corporate nemesis.  They were exact opposites and on a collision course to destruction.

Like me, he was both shocked and surprised by the horoscope�s accuracy.  I told him about the long-standing conflict between these rival Rams and Lions and painted in graphic detail its harrowing dynamic.  He roared with laughter, informing me that it depicted exactly the tenor of his everyday interaction with this adversary.  

As the fates would have it, at that very instant, his archrival walked past the office.  "Hey, Carole.  Come in here for a minute.  I want you to hear this!" and he asked me to read his horoscope to her.  "Sound familiar?"

Carole said: "Read my horoscope."  It was both damning and inspiring at the same time.  They both laughed uproariously together over this twist of fate that had them working together in the same company.  

These two serious executives spent considerable time giggling, bantering and initiating the beginning of what turned out to be an improved � albeit, imperfect � business relationship.

Not everything�s solve-able

So what happened here?

I�m not sure.  I think part of what transpired was that we got to discuss some harsh business realities without placing blame on anyone or having to chart a developmental plan.  It was almost like the conflict was pre-ordained and caused by the hand of destiny.  They were both just two hapless mortals unwittingly cooperating with the gods in fulfilling their corporate responsibilities.

Another odd thing was present that made this conversation different: humor.  This is not a traditional characteristic accompanying our business discussions � but something George Bernard Shaw must have seen when he quipped, "If you�re going to tell people the truth, you�d better make them laugh.  Otherwise, they�ll kill you."

I think we may have lost the ancient art of the human touch in our serious work of executive development.  Somehow forgetting that, ultimately, people change when they want to.  Quantifiable data be damned if the timing isn�t right.  Maybe there are parts of people�s lives that are simply not going to change.  A disturbing thought to some.  

Companies might need to just learn to live with the imperfection of the human condition as they strive for business success.

Another ancient piece to this puzzle of development is the aspect of mystery in the human journey.  Some things just can�t be defined, chartered or proscribed.  The unfolding of the human spirit is sacred.  It is a process we seldom fully know, are often unable to quantify, and are rarely in a position to manage.  We�re well served to recall the advice of the Zen masters for the requisite decorum when confronting the sacred: awe, reverence, surprise.

What to do

Even though I�ve gone on to use horoscopes in my regular conversations with leaders, does this mean we abandon all the tools and trappings of our trade?  Not necessarily; although on a bad day that is exactly where I tend to wind up.  As with the example of President Reagan, there remains a great work to be done and we�re best served by moving forward � with or without the counsel of an astrologer.  

But in that journey, having a conversation about destiny helps.  Recognizing that we live and work with ambiguity helps.  Knowing that people change only when they�re good and ready helps.

And acknowledging that star-crossed mortals will always populate our business plans with both tragic and humorous outcomes greatly helps.

� Kenny Moore, 2002.  Article used with permission.  

About the Author

Kenny says, "If you�re thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation.  I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say.  Please E-mail me at kennythemonk [at]"

Kenny Moore is co-author of �The CEO and the Monk: One Company�s Journey to Profit and  Purpose� (John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the Top Ten best-selling business books on  He has over 20 years experience with change management, leadership development and healing the corporate community.  Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest � doing a very similar kind of work, but getting paid a lot less.

Kenny has been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning News, and interviewed by Tom Peters, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company magazine regarding his unique leadership style.  He can be reached at (973) 956-8210 or kennythemonk [at]

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • The Secret Language of Birthdays. Gary Goldschneider, Aron Goldschneider, Joost Elffers. Penguin Studio, ISBN: 0670858579. 1994
  • The Power Path: The Shaman's Way to Success in Business and Life.  Jose & Lena Stevens. New World Library, ISBN: 1-57731-217-1 .  2002
  • The Corporate Shaman: A Business Fable.  Richard C. Whiteley.  HarperCollins, 2002 ISBN: 0060008393

world wide web - articles  Articles

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side

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Page updated: October 16, 2023   
Institute for Management Excellence, Copyright � 2002 All rights reserved

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