People Business

April 24, 2012

Last month, Fortune magazine ranked the top 12 business innovators of our time – “founders who turned concepts into companies and changed the face of business.”  It was an unsurprising list dominated by the visionary leaders of what are now well-known enterprises.  What I found most interesting was a theme.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, No. 2 on the list (behind Apple’s Steve Jobs), said his best business decisions came down to picking good people and relying on them.

No. 4 Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, credited “a bunch of smart people” that continually take his ideas and improve them.

No. 9 Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines has created “a culture that respected the people he carefully hired.”  He said, “front line personnel can either make you or break you. . . Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”

No. 10 Narayana Murthy of the Indian company Infosys said an emerging organization “must coalesce around a team of people with an enduring value system.”

Time and again, the secret sauce is the people.  Not policy or procedures or products.  People.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.