A decade with TIM

Eleven years ago I was asked by a group of prominent academicians and business men from Boston if I would agree to help build TIM (Technion Institute of Management) in Israel. A good friend and colleague Zeev Tadmor – then President of the Technion, challenged me to see if I could support the development of a totally different project compared to anything else I had done before. Until then, I visited and worked in more than 100 countries, managed eight companies and experienced challenges, failures and successes of all sorts.

“Why don’t you walk your talk and translate what you have learned as a CEO to try build a first-of-its-kind global management program for executive teams?” he said.

 After much internal debate and hesitation, I decided to take the project on and build it, committing to a period of four years. Ten years later, with thousands of CEOs and Vices Presidents as graduates, hundreds of cover stories in the international media and hundreds of successful company projects, along with Professor Lester Thurow our Chairman and Professor Shlomo Maital our Academic Director, we have decided to move on.

It is not only difficult to leave a life time project which made a difference for so many executives, but it is also quite difficult to let it go. So much of my life learning and lessons came from TIM. So many people around the world became accustomed to hearing our voice (TIM has been to forty two sites worldwide on benchmarking visits and met with 542 global corporations – most of them on a Chairman and CEO level).

So, not only will I miss TIM terribly I will cherish the wonderful days, weeks, months and years we spent developing one of the best Global Executive Programs in the world.

Many friends and colleagues criticized me when I decided to take over the company in the late nineties. They challenged me whether it was even possible to build a “new concept” when there were so many programs around. They tried to convince me to take over a commercial company again as opposed to managing a company in the development area of management. All I can say is that I don’t regret a second of devoting ten years of my life to help develop quality executives. It actually helped me become better in what I do.

My next newsletter will already come out of the Yoyah Group. But I do want to thank all the people who made our ten years possible and successful. The list will probably take another three pages so I will write my gratitude separately. I do want to wish all of you the strength, the will power and the ability to give from yourselves for worthwhile causes whenever you can.

I have given all of me to TIM for many years and there are not enough words in my mind to describe my learning and the insights I gained. Until the next letter, I wish you all love and success.

 Yoram

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If you have a teenager at home, you are probably amazed by the amount of time they spend by their PC “playing” on Facebook. I am troubled about this phenomenon for a totally different reason you can imagine. I am concerned about the information floating out there FOR EVER in cyber space which may hurt our kids in the future.

A little while ago Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg deleted his own incriminating photos featuring half naked shots with his teddy bear and pajama pants looking anything but sober. I guess Mark felt it was time to grow up and resume the image of a true CEO – One who heads an epic brand with the biggest global swarm ever known to mankind. Well, hey – Mark could get away with it… But you and I, or our children may not.

If DeCartes lived today he would’ve declared– I appear in Google, therefore I am! Truth is millions of people are scrutinized daily online. Millions of incriminating data; photos, videos, wall comments, tweets and jackass stunts are viewed, poked, tagged and re-tweeted again and again… and again.

12th century Iranian mathematician and philosopher Omar Khaayam once wrote: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on… nor all thy piety nor thy wit shall cancel half a line…nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.”

Let’s put it in today’s context: If you post a photo of yourself or a friend completely smashed, chances are you could be shooting yourself or your friend in the leg right before that critical, career turning interview.

Even though Facebook recently created new privacy laws, there are millions of people who are not properly applying them. Facebook and other social media communities provide fantastic, no – brilliant networking opportunities. Myriads of jobs, marriages and re-connects have resulted over the years. Unfortunately there are no statistics indicating career failures and fall outs resulting from incriminating information innocently posted online.

Perhaps if your 18 year old daughter who was tagged in scant cladding over the summer, or your 16 year old son who was featured in a vandal rampage in YouTube were made a little more aware…

After all – could you imagine them emailing an incriminating photo or video to the CEO of that dream company – just before the interview?

We have an important message to convey to our kids. Perhaps, if we put it to them that way – they may think twice before the next expose.

One gate, one sign and what it symbolizes

Many of you wrote to me after last week’s theft of the Aushwitz concentration camp gate. I thought it would be appropriate to tell you where I came from so that you may understand the affect of such an event on people with my background…

I was born in Israel to parents who were “graduates” of several Holocaust concentration camps. My father came from Czechoslovakia where his family was quite well off.  As with many families from their generation, he was in complete denial that something “different” was happening to them.

Being handsome, smart and sure of himself, he grew up skiing, speaking several languages and hanging around women of all kinds. Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia changed his fate forever as it did to all Jewish people. When he was sixteen he witnessed his parents being beaten by the Gestapo after they discovered gold coins hidden in the seams of their jackets. By the time he was eighteen he lost his mother who died in the camps.

My mother came from Hungary. Being a sweet and devoted daughter to her parents and to her tradition, she grew up in the Zionist youth movement of Budapest and celebrated the Sabbath with her religious grandparents. Her father never came back from the camps and her mother saved her life by hiding her in different places. They wondered through a torn Europe for four years after the war was over and spent time in Jewish agency and U.N camps in Germany, Austria and France.

The long journey to the newly declared state of Israel almost ended up on a rattling old ship where she was cramped together with fifteen hundred other illegal immigrants trying to get into the Promised Land. The British patrol ship caught them four nautical miles off the shore of Israel and the memories came back. Just that this time the screams roared out in English. The British sprayed the resisting refugees with water canons and to add noise to the celebration, shot some smoke grenades.

People jumped in the water just to be caught later and brought back up on deck totally soaking wet and dried out from tears of years of humility and abuse. Together with her mother and the rest of the new immigrants, she was brought to Cyprus to another concentration camp where she learned Hebrew and more about the country she dreamt about.

I was raised in an Israel that was a young nation with kids who were brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust memories. So, it was expected from us to be strong and fearless. We had to be devoted to our country and to outsmart our “enemies”. This national phenomenon eventually led to some significant cultural achievements but also generated tremendous arrogance and what I sometimes call “seeing in black and white.”

Though I never forgot my background, after years of living in the States and traveling the world, I realized some of the pitfalls of our upbringing. For us, children of the Holocaust, watching period movies and hearing about Anti-Semitic acts conjures up a whole different set of childhood memories.

When we visit the Auschwitz camp with its quiet and clean surroundings, we smell the odors of burning bodies. When we walk into the cramped cabins, we envision the thousands of skeletons of starving humans begging for a slice of bread.

And when we watch the gate with its cynical sign “Work Will Set You Free”, we swear in our hearts that we will NEVER, NEVER let it happen again. So the stolen metal gate symbolizes our past and our future alike…

New heights of openness – New depths of friendship

He called me out of the blue, one morning after months of lost contact. “Yoram”, he said, “I thought about you. Are you ok? Can I come over”?

What happened, what instigated the call I asked? Some voice inside me said you could use my insights and my friendship, he responded.

I was touched how he sensed me from far away. It was also moving because he was not embarrassed to pick up the phone and express his care.

My dear friends, my notes, which so many of you follow and respond to, do not always pursue consistent themes. Occasionally we discuss management experiences and often I share stories and events which ten years ago I did not dare to discuss. At this stage of my life, I am clearly growing to a point where nothing is off limits and no honest detail is considered embarrassing or shameful. Life is too short and time is the essence. What is not shared today may be lost tomorrow.

So back to my dear friend who communicated care, love and devotion without resorting to words.

“Everyone needs a friend or mentor who can ask you the tough questions. Someone who can be cruel to be kind from a place of love,” he said at one point.

I have thought about this for years. Coming from a country where listening is not part of our cultural malaise and defensiveness is an inalienable part of our psyche, I welcomed a moment of truth from a loving friend who made me face reality with courage and a readiness to grow.

Imagine a person with no ulterior motives, who brings tremendous wisdom and pure love, who believes in you and admires you, but is also able to look you in the eye and tell you where he thinks you are stuck. I was truly blessed by this door-opening experience.

“I am lucky to have you as a friend”, he said, “I am lucky to be there, to have this kind of opportunity enter my life.”

Can you imagine the interaction? He came to help me and yet he was feeling gratitude as a result of my openness and readiness to truly let him in.

Yoram Yahav

 

 

Buddha in his writings refers to the art of patience. So does Einstein much later in history when discussing his research insights. The topic has been on my mind for several days now and I was wondering how rooted it is in the minds of my surrounding community.

10_09_y notePatience as outlined in dictionary.com is defined as; “the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like… quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered…”

In Wikipedia I found a more intriguing definition of patience; “In evolutionary psychology and in cognitive neuroscience, patience is studied as a decision-making problem involving a choice of a small reward in a short span of time, or a more valuable reward after a long period of time.”

To me, patience symbolizes maturity, experience, growth and time. To some extent, it reflects the natural path of life’s teachings and life’s rewards for our own investment in considerate thoughts, acclimation to a no-anger environment and deep belief in what’s meant to be.

I know it sounds a bit heavy and philosophical but recently I have learned to increasingly appreciate and respect those who teach us to be patient. We live in a day and age where results, instant gratification and immediate outcomes are part of our every day language.

There is no time to wait. Time is money. What you can do now do not postpone until tomorrow… We all contend with these realities. As a result, many compromise on the quality of their websites, the depth of their relationships and tend to rush into financial obligations before they are ready. The tendency to act and react, to “give it back” is only too familiar in business, at home and in politics.

Most of the time listening and timing our own statements and reactions are not typical modes of behavior, at least where I come from.

At the risk of sounding too general I dare say, if there is one topic we could explore in greater depth and learn more about, it is the art of patience in modern life. As a martial artist, I was trained to handle physical reactions within the context of patience but I do not think I have done a good job adapting this skill to my personal life. Nevertheless, it’s, a learnable skill with tremendous room for growth and insights.

I hope you were “patient” in reading my short article and as before, I look forward to receiving your reactions.

A group of some thirty-five managers from top Israeli companies and TIM representatives recently returned from an amazing Benchmarking Management Tour (IBT) to England. There, we met with heads of the government and top executives (including CEOs) from key organizations and companies.

One such visit was with the management of Manchester United, the famous football club. Regardless of whether you are a football fan or not, there is a high probability that you have heard of the name Manchester United. The power of branding these days is revealed through the capacity to recognize company names even if they are not part of our main interests. It was for that reason, amongst others, that we chose to take the management teams of five Israeli-based corporations (Alvarion, AudioCodes, GE Ultrasound, Hogla-Kimberly and IBM Israel) to visit and learn from amazing organizations such as this.

Left to right: Yair Shamir, Shuki Gleitman, Yoram Yahav, Eran Goren

How many companies is one familiar with that have over three hundred and fifty million devoted fans who are willing to pay a great deal of money for their branded clothing, drive or fly great distances for their games and spend a fortune on hospitality packages at Old Trafford (the home stadium of the club since 1910)? I believe that the main point I want to convey in this article is the idea of an organization striving for and achieving success by creating an ongoing experience for its customers.

There is much for all of us to learn from the management, operation and vision of Manchester United. Our main host, Mr. Michael Bolingbroke, the Club’s COO, is a perfect example of a manager who “walks his talk.” Prior to joining United, Bolingbroke was the Senior Vice President of Shows of the French-Canadian circus company, Cirque du Soleil. Working with Cirque du Soleil for six years, he was in charge of the resident and global touring shows. Without a doubt, the man knows how to create an experience for his listeners. We could only envy the calm, professional and caring responses he gave to our challenging questions. Just imagine a company which has its own museum, tours, restaurants, hospitality boxes, full line of clothing, premium products marketed worldwide, owns contracts with players worth hundreds of millions of dollars and possesses a substantial piece of real-estate. Think about the same company spending a fortune and endless efforts on its local fans so that they will continue to have the Manchester United experience at all times. Quite remarkable and unusual.

On my way out, stopping at the stadium store, I ran across an older lady from Bulgaria who was looking for a gift for her grandchild. “I only have enough money to buy one gift for my family back home”, she told me, “which will make their day.” She came all the way to the store on a bus to take photos and buy a gift. Let me ask you this: How many brands do you know of which will justify a special twenty-five-hour trip to bring a single souvenir back home?

From the moment we enter this world we endure experience the process of experiencing the “other.” From infancy we learn about feelings from our surroundings: Sadness is felt once we understand what happiness is, we are taught the meaning of “tall” so that “short” will be understood and the same applies to beauty versus ugliness, rich versus poor, angry versus calm and so forth.

My first memories of friendship are of my parents’ experiences with their close friends. They would call and visit at times of sickness, or crises in the family, or simply assist my mom while my dad was away. In the eyes of a boy, Israel was a heaven to grow up in. Friends were always there for me in an unequivocal manner regardless of the time of day or the state of mind. It was an inspirational stage of my life, and if I may say, a period which molded my future perception of friendship and its high value.

Similar to the cultural difficulty of getting acclimated to stingy people (when you are “generous” in nature) and cruelty (when kindness and gentleness rule your life), turning one’s back to a friend has similar outcomes. If there is something I can say with full confidence, it would be to value your commitment to your friends, and theirs to you. We do not choose our relatives, but we definitely do choose our friends.

There are many arguments I have heard in the past about the relationship between a cultural value and the quality and depth of a true friendship. I have not researched it, but I can only speak of my own intuition and insights. The concept of friendship relates to the education and the experiences you encounter in the first stages of your life, if with your parents, or with your immediate environment. In Israel, as in other countries, friendship enters the value system once we are born. We listen to the heroic stories of people carrying their friends over vast distances, we visit one another without notice, and we are told at a young age that having a good friend is like receiving the best gift for one’s birthday. When I was growing up, it was not unusual for a sixty-year-old person to be in touch with his/her friends from kindergarten.

friendship & forgivenessAt times there is a sad part to friendship. This happens when you are betrayed by one who you considered a good friend. When greed, egotism and self-indulgence take over, that is when one needs “to do his/her balance sheet.” By admitting the pain, disappointment and loss of faith, one can try to move on.

As a businessman, my opinions quite often deviate from the “standard code of operational thought.” I believe that everything happens for a reason while our free choice is always an option. Similar to the old saying: “What goes around, comes around,” our experiences come back to haunt us. We must take the lessons of life to our hearts, soft or severe as they may be.

To lose a personal friend however, whose friendship was taken for granted can be a devastating blow to one’s self esteem. The disappointment and the sense of bitterness take over us. It is at moments like these that we must try to forgive that person, move on and sincerely hope that when truth will prevail in life, that the backlash will not be too harsh.


Yoram Yahav
TIM CEO

This month I am going to raise a topic that is often overlooked — the loneliness of being at the top.

There have been several books published in recent years addressing this specific topic. I believe, however, that none have been able to describe the true feeling of loneliness that arises from being in the position of running a company or a country. It is challenging and difficult at the end of the day to go to sleep with the thought that your own decisions and deeds may affect the lives of many.

07_09Over the weekend I had the opportunity to meet with one of Israel’s former prime ministers. I described to him a meeting I had had in Qatar where Emir H.H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani spoke to a group of leaders. The group included some Israelis, and the Emir was well aware of the effect this had on the mood and environment in which he found himself speaking. Being the brilliant speaker that he is, the Emir treated the whole audience equally and fairly. I was impressed because I knew that the pressure on the gentleman was quite strong and harsh. Now, the Emir is not a “lonely” person, neither is he ever physically alone, but he is in a position which could lend itself to loneliness during his decision process.

Leadership is about having the courage to make decisions, some of which may at times makes one unpopular and disliked. From my vast experience in several companies as a CEO, being a CEO presents the situation of seeing and dealing with challenges that no one else in the organization can truly experience unless they actually hold the position. Many people admire their leaders—political or CEOs. One must remember that there is always room for someone to move forward and up in an organization, unless you are the CEO. Once you become a CEO, life changes. The people surrounding you, regardless of their intellect and experience, look up to you. Their responsibility is limited and sectionalized, while you are in charge of everything. There is no one, aside from a board, to support you on your day-to-day decisions.

In my benchmarking tours around the world I have been fortunate enough to meet with many world leaders. In some cases I have asked them straightforward questions about hardships, challenges and stress. In other cases I have observed how they put on the front of the strong, confident and calm “problem solving” leader. I have tried to imagine the sense of loneliness that these people face in their every day lives, except for the solace of a partner. No wonder so many presidents and prime ministers are charged with the ridiculous accusation that their spouse is influencing their decisions (i.e. Nancy Reagan, Eva Perón, Sarah Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton).

In this era, when the global economy, the environment and the continual threat of nuclear weapons are becoming everyone’s problems, a new decision making process enters the scene. Leaders of countries and CEOs alike share the need to communicate their loneliness to one another. One should notice how more and more meetings and forums for discussions are taking place worldwide. CEOs are meeting frequently with their peers and world leaders are joining together monthly for the sake of causes and crises. It may be the solution for many CEOs who, like myself, at the end of the day go to sleep troubled about whether or not they have made the right decisions.


Yoram Yahav
TIM CEO

I sat quietly in a doctor’s reception area and listened to two older ladies discussing plastic surgery. When they noticed me listening they even asked for my opinion. Consequently, the honest talk about breast enhancement, tummy tucks, Botox injections and lip plumping made me think about beauty and the beliefs associated with it.

Plastic Surgery?If there is one definite prediction in life, it is that we will all eventually get older. As of today, to the best of my knowledge, science has not yet discovered a magical formula for the “fountain of youth” to keep us young forever. Our physiological structure is built around the natural decay of the human cell, and as such, aging is an unavoidable process.

In the past we used to criticize women going through breast enlargement, liposuction, nose jobs, eyebrow lifts and other cosmetic surgeries, most of which I don’t even know how to pronounce. Today, when it is not uncommon for sixteen-year-old girls to have breast augmentations and when your elderly neighbor regularly comes home from a “Botox” party with no wrinkles on her face, we accept it as normal.

I have been thinking about my conversation with the two older ladies at the doctor’s reception area. After all, why not do something that makes one feel better? Why is plastic surgery bad if a person feels better about him/herself after an operation? My personal opinion has always been that older and younger people are all beautiful, and that beauty changes relative to their age. A seventy-year-old woman can be attractive and beautiful even if she hasn’t gone through any surgery whatsoever. At the same time, if she decides to enlarge her breasts to establish “more presence,” then who are we to judge whether she should or shouldn’t?!

Lately I have been working out and swimming regularly. It always amuses me to notice the guys in the dressing room passing by the mirrors after the shower. There is a consistency in the manner in which each one of us looks at the mirror when we pass by. Quite often there is pride and an awe of satisfaction in the eyes. I find myself smiling and thinking how natural and gratifying it is to feel healthy in one’s body. But, what can we do that some of us hate working out and others are unsatisfied with the body that God gave them. How can we blame or criticize a human being who, with the help of the surgeon’s knife, can achieve a younger look? Interesting food for thought…

  
Yoram Yahav
CEO

“A small step forward in life can be a huge step forward for the spirit.” I remember reading this Eastern script translation a few years ago. I have thought much about this phrase over these years and quite often have wondered about what its connotations are.

I am writing this note from a catamaran in a cozy marina in Western Italy. When one is at sea, it is easy to indulge in the relaxation which always accompanies deep thoughts and insights we often don’t consider in our hectic daily lives.

05_09_y noteSo many of us work around the clock, buried and entangled within the spider web of the many excuses for our own neglectful inactions in life. Some people I know in the high-tech industry have not taken vacation for years. They walk around like zombies, with stressed-out minds and spirits and waning self-esteem. I spoke to such an individual just a few days ago. As it happened, I felt privileged to be able to help him open up and pour out his aching heart to another man (which does not often happen in my chauvinist culture). He confessed, “I am falling apart. I feel down most of the day. The relationship with my wife is going down the drain and I have less patience for my kids. My whole body aches more times than it not. I wish there was a way for me to go away for a few days of sailing to relax my mind and get away from it all. I need it so badly,” he finally added.

I am willing to bet that each one of you know at least one person around you who is experiencing the feelings described above. I am even certain you are able to empathize with some of these complaints. My suggestion to you is to do anything you can to encourage these individuals to “take a small step” and take a break, even if it is just for one day. I am going through an intense period at work and have chosen to take a much needed step forward by stepping out of the office. Being able to smell the sea in the air and experiencing the beauty of sailing into the wind has already made my soul feel better, and will help me return to work more energized. Take yourself out to the beach in the evening, watch the sunset, ride a bike for a few hours, listen to good music while looking at your favorite photographs. Life is good. With a small step forward in life and huge step forward for your soul, you will truly be able to appreciate that.

  
Yoram Yahav
CEO

Blog Entries Written By Yoram Yahav, TIM CEO

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