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The Onboarding Experience Matters To Your Future Employees

We talked last week about the need for HR and leaders to be on the look-out for employee potential – a real-time alignment between the business’s needs, new employees in the onboarding and hiring process, and existing employees who may have unrecognized potential.

So it’s natural to go back and look at the first piece of the puzzle – onboarding – to see where companies can improve an employee’s first days and weeks on the job with the goal of creating long-term employee engagement and growth.

As with so much else in the world of work, long-term employee engagement tracks back to cultural fit. The 2013 CandE survey, which assesses candidate experience in at leading companies, found that nearly 50 percent of prospective employees looked to company materials to get a feeling for the company’s values, a good indicator of cultural fit.

So it makes sense to ensure the story you tell in your marketing materials, on your career website, and through the recruiting and hiring process should be consistent, values-based, and accurately reflect your company’s unique workplace culture.

Welcome Welcome (Photo credit: Rameshng)

Where this can break down, of course, is during the onboarding and hiring process, where employees are too often emailed a packet of intimidating forms to fill out and told to come back when it’s done.  Some companies take the additional step of providing videos describing how to fill out the forms, and still others gather new employees in a room for a day to fill out forms, ask questions, and get to know one another – creating a little ‘team’ which will then spread its enthusiasm into the company as people move to their departments to begin work.

I’d argue for thinking of the onboarding process as a team-building exercise rather than simply a time to get all the necessary forms filled out properly. For example, tech giant Red Hat brings new employees to its Raleigh headquarters for an intensive multiple-day program in which new employees are taken through the company’s brand book – its cultural ‘Bible’; introduced to a range of employee ambassadors, and given an iconic team-building tchotchke – a red Fedora. The company shows it cares from the get-go, not only explaining its brand and culture in between form-filling-out-sessions, but also branding the new employees as its own by providing with them with the beginnings of a Red Hat uniform.  In tech, you can go a long way towards making someone happy by giving them a good t-shirt, so the Fedora is clearly going the extra mile.  But it doesn’t end there: the company does challenging work, is very engaged with its community of users, and is growing rapidly, providing employees with opportunities not only for personal growth but also job satisfaction. The story plays out on, where Red Hat gets four out of five stars from current and past employees, and where one employee posted ‘Choose your own adventure’. Not bad.

But does all this front-work pay off in long-term employee engagement? It appears it does. The company has won Computerworld’s coveted ‘Top 100 Places to Work’ award and been recognized by Forbes as one of ‘America’s 200 Best Small Companies’.  The company is lauded for its workplace flexibility, its culture, the caliber of its employees, and its challenging, interesting work.

Maybe the most telling aspect of the story related above is how personal it is. The onboarding experience is a personal one, from the act of bringing people together, to the team building, to introductions to brand advocates.  New employees are treated as people from the outset, increasing the probability that they’ll be engaged immediately, and remain engaged, as they disperse throughout the company to their respective offices.

So the lessons of successful onboarding might include:

Focus on team-building: Group new hires in teams to begin to build teamwork, but bring the teams together frequently to reaffirm the company’s focus and purpose.

Make it as personal as possible: This is a great opportunity to learn more about the employee than was possible during the interview process. Assign each new hire a mentor to help the new employee make the transition into the company smoothly. The mentor can not only provide guidance on simple things – who’s the best person to go to to find out about x – but can also suggest training that may help the newcomer fill in skills that will make his or her life easier.

Reinforce employer brand: Chances are the new hire was drawn to your firm by its reputation, including its brand. If you position your company as a cool place to work on the web and in marketing material, ensure that feeling is built into your on-boarding process.

Invite your employee to use their personal brand: This is also a good time to tell your newly hired employee where he or she can help reinforce the employer brand, and where opportunities exist to amplify employer brand with their personal brand. Note this isn’t appropriate for all companies or all employees; be thoughtful about this. I know many companies are still hesitant or do not encourage employees to engage in social media or branding. It’s still largely case by case.

Audit your onboarding process with check-ins: Don’t’ assume onboarding is a one-and-done thing. To make sure you live up to the promises you made to your new employee, check in regularly to ensure the onboarding experience is consistent with the employee experience. Use surveys, informal one-on-ones between HR and the employee, team building exercises and follow-on conversations with assigned mentors to ensure your new hire is still on a good path.

NFL Embarrassingly Fumbles Ray Rice Suspension And Subsequent Explanations

Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Labor Policy and Government Affairs, spoke on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning on Monday to discuss the 2-game suspension of Ray Rice in the aftermath of Rice’s physical altercation with his then-fiance now-wife.

Though I have seen Mr. Birch speak in person at the Harvard Sports Law Symposium and have been impressed by his intelligence, he was certainly not the Monday Morning Quarterback the league needed to smooth hard feelings which have manifested since last week.

Two key quotes from the interview:

“On balance, we reviewed all the materials, listened to the persons we listened to, took the input of the Players Association. When we looked on balance at all of that, we believe that discipline we issued is appropriate. It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think that’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior. I think we can put that to rest.”

“The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred, with respect to Mr. Rice, in this case,” Birch said. “I think that, were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would be able to receive any punishment from any other source.”

In regards to the first comment, obviously the NFL does not condone its players being physically abusive to women.  I’m not sure there is a company or industry in the world that would condone such behavior.

However, the NFL is one of the most visible and popular business brands in the world, and certainly in the sports industry.  Furthermore, it is a business that is itself extremely violent by nature.

As such, given the high profile the sport holds, perception of image is everything.  Protecting the shield is everything.

Especially when you consider that 40% of your fans are women, according to this study by Scarborough Sports Marketing.

His second comment, in which he opines that no discipline would have occurred in this matter if it were a case involving a non-celebrity, leads one to speculate about what other evidence the league had at its disposal when passing judgment on this case.  Exactly what type of physical act did Mr. Rice engage in that led to his partner laying unconscious in the elevator?  Was he attacked first?  Was their alcohol involved?  Who knows?

But the fact that Mr. Birch wouldn’t even acknowledge on Monday’s radio interview when asked directly whether the league did indeed review a longer version of the video in question just seemed very odd and arrogant.  What’s the harm in acknowledging a simple “yes” or “no” to that question.

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News gets it exactly right in the final analysis.  Commissioner Roger Goodell cannot play judge, jury, and executioner anymore.  The process must change.

Players have routinely been suspended for a minimum of 4 games for violating substance abuse policies.  Striking a woman is far more egregious an act that striking a match to light a joint.

And even if the video and testimonial evidence from all parties involved suggests that the video of Rice dragging his partner into the elevator was somehow not as bad as it looked, then a detailed explanation of the events that actually took place must come to light when the matter at hand casts serious negative exposure onto the NFL.

Unfortunately, because the news cycle in sports and football is swift these days, and given the NFL’s enormous popularity, they are likely banking on the premise that no further comment on the matter is needed…and that it soon will be swept under the rug.

Or dragged into an elevator.


Patrick is an Economics Professor at the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University in St Louis, MO, and the Founder/Director of Sportsimpacts.  Follow him on Twitter.

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Tesla's Gigafactory

For years, the world’s automakers have suffered from shortages of the batteries needed to power their hybrid-electric vehicles, as well as electric vehicles. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 interrupted Toyota Prius production just as the latest version was launching.

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Designers Showcase Their Collections At The Forbes Under 30 Fashion Show

Emily Canal Emily Canal Forbes Staff I manage the homepage and cover whatever crosses my keyboard. full bio ?

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I am the homepage editor and cover whatever crosses my keyboard. Before joining Forbes, I wrote for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Daily and POLITICO. My career started with sports coverage for The York Weekly in Maine before I was old enough to have a driver’s license and has brought me to New York City (with the help of a lot of coffee). Mainer, surfer and (bad) movie aficionado. Email me at Tweet me at @emilycanal

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Is The US Finally Accelerating A Move To Chip And Pin?

US President Barack Obama has signed an executive order demanding that US government bodies make the move move to chip and pin credit cards and terminals by January, replacing magnetic strip based technology. The move is designed to enhance transaction security.

The US is more than a decade behind many other countries in adopting chip and pin systems, which are standard in much of Europe and other developed countries around the world. Only two per cent of Americans have chip and pin enabled cards, according to the Smart Card Alliance.

Retail Shift

At the moment, many of the country’s retailers are also expected to adopt the new technology by October 2015, when card companies will shift liability for fraud on signature-based transactions over to the retailers if they haven’t implemented chip technology.

The moves by the government indicate a desire for much faster adoption in the wake of several high-profile breaches that saw millions of customers’ details compromised. How retailers react is another question: they still face a choice over what to do, given the initial costs if they do upgrade their technology but also facing longer term liability woes if they don’t .

Credit cards Français : Cartes de crédit Itali... Cards without chip and pin tech still dominate US retail by an enormous margin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The BuySecure executive order, issued on Friday, focuses on government-issued credit cards as well as the introduction of new payment terminals in government facilities, and will also impact a range of areas including benefits payments. It is intended to show the government is leading the change, and the expectation is that business will follow.

America’s Single Fastest Growing Crime

Issuing the order, Obama said identity theft is America’s single fastest-growing crime with over 100 million Americans affected last year, and that while there was “no silver bullet” for the problem the move to chip and pin will help.

The newer EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa Visa) technology relies on customers using their card and entering a pin at transaction points, with data encrypted, rather than simply a signature being required to authorize a transaction.

“Starting next year, we’re going to begin making sure that credit cards and credit card readers issued by the United States government come equipped with two new layers of protection: a microchip in the card that’s harder for thieves to clone than a magnetic strip, and a pin number you enter into the reader just as you do with an ATM,” he said.

“We know this technology works. When Britain switched to a chip and pin system, they cut fraud in stores by seventy per cent.”

As part of wider measures, Obama said he is directing federal law enforcement to share more information with the private sector when identity theft rings are discovered.

The Challenge For Businesses

Several large retailers, including Home Depot, Target, Walgreens and Walmart (the first two of whose customers were hit by particularly large breaches), have promised to adopt chip and pin technology in full by the beginning of 2015, ten months ahead of the deadline. Meanwhile, American Express has pledged $10 million to help replace card readers at small businesses.

English: The Home Depot in Knightdale, North C... Chip and pin and other security steps could help reduce breaches, even if they wouldn’t alone necessarily stop another Home Depot style breach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jason Oxman, chief executive at the Electronic Transactions Association, said that although chip cards “would not have stopped recent high profile retail breaches, they are part of an overall secure technology deployment that includes tokenization and end-to-end encryption”.

But shifting America’s many businesses over to chip and pin technology is sure to be an enormous task. With the costs involved, many smaller retailers will look for greater support from their credit card companies for the change, considering the substantial fees they already pay per transaction and the cost of new terminals.

They too will eventually face concerned customers unwilling to make a transaction without the new technology, however. Combined with the shift in liability for retailers without the latest readers, they may feel greater urgency to make the change of their own accord, in spite of the upfront cost.

Like this story? For more news on breakthrough tech, follow me on Facebook , Twitter or Google +. Please share your thoughts below.

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2014 World Series Will See First Stadiums In Pro Sports Accepting Apple Pay

Maury Brown Maury Brown Contributor Where sports meets business full bio ?

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I am the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, a consulting and analysis firm which includes the The Biz of Baseball. Through the Business of Sports Network, research and analysis has been done for several clubs in MLB and the NBA, as well as work at a pro league level. Not content to work just on the management side, we have done work for several sports agencies. Other written work is at the freelance level for outlets such as Variety Weekly. I can be heard across the country as a radio guest each week, including a regular sports business segment on FOX Sports Radio Portland each Weds. My work has been sourced for analysis and commentary in the NY Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Times, CNN/Money, MarketWatch, Crain’s Business NY, Crain’s Detroit Business, Crain’s Business Chicago, The Deal, the Rocky Mountain News, Fox News, New York Daily News, Sports, the NY Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Tribune, Toronto Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sports Review, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, St. Petersburg Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, San Jose Mercury News, the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, Sports Fantasy Monthly magazine, and USA Today Sports Weekly. I look forward to your comments, and can be followed on Twitter via @BizballMaury.

The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Total's CEO De Margerie Dies In Plane Crash; Moustachioed Dealmaker Predicted Peak Oil

Christophe de Margerie, CEO of French oil giant Total Total was killed Monday night when the business jet he was flying in crashed upon takeoff at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow. In addition to de Margerie, 63, four others perished in the accident, including three crew members and the driver of a snow removal machine with which the Falcon 50 jet collided.

According to reports, the plane’s landing gear hit the snow plow on liftoff, causing an engine fire. As the pilot attempted to turn back and land, the plane crashed in a fireball.

Total has confirmed the accident in a statement.

It’s a sad end to the life of one of Big Oil’s most colorful leaders. De Margerie had worked at Total since 1974. He became head of Middle East operations in 1995, then boss of exploration and production in 2002. He served as CEO since 2007. He leaves behind a wife and children.

Immediately recognizable for his bristle-brush moustache, De Margerie was gregarious and outspoken. I interviewed him in 2010 for this feature story and found him to be a refreshing departure from the typically close-guarded Big Oil boss.

Chatty and blunt, De Margerie didn’t hide his conviction that Peak Oil was a fast approaching reality, insisting at the time that the world’s producers would be hard pressed to ever grow past 95 million barrels per day. He may have revised that number upwards a bit in recent years, considering the booming development of tight oil in the United States, but his dogma remained the same as then: “There will be a lack of sufficient energy available,” he said.

Because of this belief, De Margerie was tireless in grabbing new oil and gas opportunities for Total — while they were still available. De Margerie ventured out from Total’s headquarters in La Défense, the west Paris business district, to woo a who’s who of presidents, prime ministers, strongmen and dictators in places like Iraq, Iran, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Yemen, Angola and Burma.

But none of De Margerie’s relationships have been more important than with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This year De Margerie negotiated a venture with Lukoil to drill for tight oil in Siberia. And with Russia’s Novatek Novatek and China’s CNPC, Total is developing a $27 billion natural gas megaproject on the Yamal Peninsula. As De Margerie told Reuters this year, ”Can we live without Russian gas in Europe? The answer is no. Are there any reasons to live without it? I think – and I’m not defending the interests of Total in Russia – it is a no.”

I asked him in 2010 whether it was simply the case that international oil companies have no choice but to make deals with despots. “Bloody right!” he exclaimed. “Because we have not oil or gas. [...] This is why the French companies are always looking for partnerships.”

Sometimes he may have even crossed the line. In March 2007, a month after taking over as CEO, De Margerie was hauled in by French authorities for 36 hours of interrogation over a $2 billion deal with Iran in 1997 to develop its massive Persian Gulf gas field. In a 2007 interview with Petroleum Intelligence, De Margerie confirmed that he authorized payments of $40 million (for consulting and lobbying efforts) to middlemen–allegedly associates of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and his son. When Iran is someday welcomed back into the brotherhood of nations, you can bet Total will be ready to build it some LNG projects.

Because De Margerie was such a wildly effective dealmaker over the past decade, he leaves Total in an enviable position. The company has arguably the best portfolio of development projects among the super-majors, with particular emphasis on deepwater developments in Angola. Despite some delays completing error-prone megafields like Kazakhstan’s Kashagan, these new ventures are ready to goose Total’s output significantly. Total will likely add 500,000 bpd of production by the end of 2017, outstripping all the big European oil companies by a long shot and resulting in 2.8 million bpd of production by then. Free cash flow is expected to blossom from $3 billion last year to $8 billion in 2015 and $15 billion in 2017. Bernstein Research analyst Oswald Clint, in a research note last month, called Total his favorite stock pick among the European super-majors.

De Margerie could have lived a very different kind of high life. When signing agreements he preferred to make toasts with single-malt Scotch — a rebuke of sorts to his patrimony: His grandfather founded Taittinger Group (as in Champagne). De Margerie could have been a king of brut. Instead, he became a prince of crude.


Follow me on Twitter @chrishelman. Read my 15 years of Forbes magazine stories here. 

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One Billion Chinese … Entrepreneurs?

China is known for doing everything “at scale,” from the top down. Thus it is no wonder that when the startup bug seems to have hit the country in force sometime last year, the most active agitator of all has been the government.  Last week, I got a vivid reminder of just how active it has been involved in the business of startups.

Z-innoway, which stands for Zhongguancun Innovation Way, or more directly translated, Zhongguancun Entrepreneurship Street, was formerly known as Haidian Book City, and was a quiet walking street lined with bookshops from its naming in 1985 until last year. Then in March 2013, the Haidian government’s real estate development arm and Tsinghua University’s asset management firm (affiliated with but independent from the university) banded together to remake the street in the image of something more aligned with the new President Xi Jinping’s mantra of innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

While the government still owns the land, twenty-year plus long-term leases had been granted to various organizations over the past two decades, and one of the first tasks had been to reclaim the total 450,000 square feet of real estate from existing tenants. After a year of work, the government has spent millions of RMB and successfully recovered nearly 250,000 square feet. In June, it held an elaborate opening ceremony with various officials, and currently already has 16 signed tenants occupying 140,000 square feet of space.

Z-innoway, a street of startup cafes, accelerators, and coworking spaces totaling 450,000 sqft. Z-innoway, a street of startup cafes, accelerators, and coworking spaces totaling 450,000 sqft.

The history of how the street became the government’s pet project for startups is a serendipitous one. In April 2011, a former Netease Netease employee named Su Di who wanted to create a space for his aspiring entrepreneur friends to hang out and co-work for as cheap as possible, ended up renting the second floor of a grimy one-star hotel and making it into a “startup café.”  The ask was simple – for a cup of coffee, which ran a bit over $2 USD, one can enjoy broadband, power, and the company of other like-minded individuals, for an entire day.  Mr. Su, who’s a friend, has been open about the “barely scraping by” business model of his Garage Café (Cheku in Chinese), but that hasn’t stopped him from opening up a Silicon Valley branch, nor from 100 more operators in various cities throughout China to shamelessly clone his idea, and even form a professional Association of Startup Cafes.

Garage (Cheku) Cafe, the original coworking space in Beijing that started the "startup cafe" trend, is still going strong. Garage (Cheku) Cafe, the original coworking space in Beijing that started the “startup cafe” trend, is still going strong.

Over the next few years, a couple of notable startups “drank a few hundred cups of coffee” at Garage, such as 36Kr, a leading tech blog and “startup services” company and also opening up their own accelerator on the same street almost directly across from their humble beginnings, as well as MomentCam, a photo app that recently received a Series A investment from Alibaba.  This attracted the attention of various media, particularly CCTV, and this street remains the only place to have had “a handful of positive spotlights” on the CCTV news, a metric proudly touted by asset management.

Last year, a seeming competitor of Garage by the name of 3W Coffee, which also began as the fanciful collaboration of three friends who all worked at internet companies and wanted a place to “hang out for people like us,” relocated from its original site across from Microsoft Microsoft headquarters and set up shop fifty meters away.  When the café opened, so did something else – an accelerator on the third floor that would seat up to 110 and do two intakes a year of fifteen or so companies.  It is now recruiting for its third class and has made investments in eight.

But it wasn’t until this year after the real estate had been recovered en masse that the tenants moved in in earnest. The street currently boasts 9 accelerators, co-working spaces and early stages startup training programs. These include a new effort by the aforementioned 36Kr, the relocation of Founder Media’s Black Horse Camp, a nationwide entrepreneurship training program, Lenovo Lenovo’s LegendStar program, and the ambitiously named 100X Accelerator by crowd equity platform Angelcrunch.  The frenzied pace of activity is palpable, as evidenced by the random Friday afternoon last month when I dropped by and ran into not one but three concurrent events.  3W in particular was at least as busy as one might expect Coupa Café, the popular startup hangout in downtown Palo Alto, to be on any given weekday.

Binggo Cafe, a coworking space and fund, hosts regular workshops in its first-floor event space which doubles as a cafe. Binggo Cafe, a coworking space and fund, hosts regular workshops in its first-floor event space which doubles as a cafe.

Looking at the list of future tenants, the number of startup service providers and corporate accelerators or themed “innovation centers” (Tencent, and Xiaomi have supposedly signed up) will likely double within a year.  And that is the marvel of China – that somehow even whilst engaging in cutthroat competition, players tend to gravitate towards crowded fields, and even see being physically located next to each other as an advantage – comfort in groups perhaps? – almost as if the existence of competition validated one’s business model and service.  What’s been replicated over and over is probably a good idea, especially now that it’s being heavily promoted and significantly subsidized by the government.

And that’s not all. The government will be setting up a service center that allows for a technology startup company to receive all its licenses and approvals within a guaranteed four business days, greatly shortened from the minimum fifteen that one currently needs (and which realistically takes a lot longer in practice).  Instead of scrambling to go to various different offices all over the city, it will be a one-stop shop where all necessary bureaus will have presence and staff.  That is for company formation.

For other professional services that a small technology company may need, there is a three story building that has been cleared out for which the top floor will be allocated to top-tier accounting, law, and other consulting providers.  The second floor has already been assigned to various leading investors, and the first floor will be a “startup lobby,” or common meeting area, I suppose where non coffee-drinkers can hang out without the pressure to be highly caffeinated.

My favorite, though, has got to be the large “Times Square” style LED display and rolling “stock ticker” band (perhaps because of tech company stock prices and/or breaking news?). The former already has its initial scaffolding put up and looks to be monumental indeed. So deliciously derivative, and yet somehow ingenious. By taking some familiar elements of the iconic, and thrusting it into an altogether unexpected setting, Z-innoway seeks to be everything that is modern China – weirdly familiar but distinctively Chinese at the same time, large, loud and just a little bit loopy.  For a country that proclaimed it will implement an extensive grant program so that the number of university student entrepreneurs in the next three years can be on par with the ratio found in developed countries, well, why stop at 800,000? I, for one, am looking forward to the emergence of one billion Chinese entrepreneurs.

I am the Greater China Investment Partner for 500 Startups, a seed fund and accelerator for early stage technology companies. I live in Beijing.

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How To Thrive In A Culture Of Fear

There’s no doubt that the Ebola virus is deadly. It has buried thousands of helpless victims in the western region of Africa and challenged the world’s best health specialists in how best to contain its spread.

News of the tragic death of the first US Ebola victim, Thomas Duncan, made headlines for good reason. So too has the news of the two nurses who have subsequently contracted this lethal virus.  But as Ebola has consumed our airwaves, I’ve been struck less by the contagious nature of Ebola, and more by the rampant and somewhat hysterical fear it has incited.

At first I found the reactions of some people a little amusing. Like the woman who turned up an airport in a homemade Hazmat suit.  But as story after story ran took over the headlines, I began to recognize that these weren’t isolated incidents of fear run amok; they were symptoms of the potent nature of fear itself – no less contagious than any virus and far more harmful to the masses.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the long term impact on the school children whose schools were closed because an employee had flown on the same plane – though not even the same flight – as a health worker who had been infected with the lethal virus.  Or because their principal had traveled to Zambia, a country with no Ebola and thousands of miles from those which have it.

While I don’t know how long it will take for this virus to be contained, I’m confident that it eventually will. What concerns me more is the impact that the fear it has incited will have on the lives of those who’ve been swept up by it.  Fear is a highly potent and contagious emotion which can spread into every corner of our lives, impairing our ability to accurately assess risk and discern legitimate threats to our safety from imagined ones. In the process it can keep us from forging deeply purposeful and meaningful lives. Indeed  left unchecked, fear can exact a steeper toll on our live than any virus or enemy ever can.

There are many things we need to be cautious about if we want to thrive in life. Drink driving. Online gambling. Addictive substances. Dishonest people. Entitled children. Complacency. The list is long.  Yet too often people expend far more energy worrying and safeguarding themselves from events that are unlikely to ever happen. Contracting Ebola while living in the USA is one of them.  So to all those who have found themselves stocking up on canned tomatoes or Googling “Hazmat suits,”  I would simply encourage you to step back and reflect on where your fear of contracting this virus is keeping you from getting on with truly living.  Mark Twain once said that we suffer more from our imagination than we ever do from reality.  Terrifying ourselves with shocking images of our loved ones dying helpless from Ebola can quickly take up residence in our psyche leaving little space for anything else.  

We live in a culture of fear.  Our media thrives on it. Marketers depend on it. Fear sells papers. Fear wins votes. Fear breeds fear.  So given how easy it is to become its unwitting victim, we must be increasingly vigilant about discerning between those fears that are serving us from those ones that are stifling us, careful not to buy into the anxieties of those around us, and intentional about not letting fear auto-pilot our lives. Too often it does.

Margie Warrell is the best-selling author of Stop Playing Safe and Find Your Courage and passionate about helping people live more bravely.  Connect on Twitter & Facebook.

Margie Warrell is a leadership coach, keynote speaker & best selling author of Stop Playing Safe (Wiley) & Find Your Courage (McGraw-Hill). Connect on Facebook and Twitter @margiewarrell

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Pharma Billionaire Frederik Paulsen Has Serious Exploration Creds

This past weekend, I attended a private dinner for Frederik Paulsen, Jr. at The Explorers Club in New York. The chief executive of Ferring Pharmaceuticals (St. Prex, Switzerland), who is worth an estimated $5 billion, had just received the club’s prestigious Lowell Thomas Award.

Since becoming a member in 2002, Paulsen has been on three club flag expeditions – in 2007 to the true North Pole at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, to the giant Ecuadoran volcano Chimborazo and, most recently, to Siberia’s Altai Mountains.

Paulsen was made a club Honorary Director in 2013, and this year underwrote a $100,000 grant, The Foundation Mamont Explorers Club World Exploration Challenge, for members. I had a chance to chat with the tall, unassuming Swede who had just celebrated his 64th birthday.

Frederik Paulsen, a top business executive, is also a first-rate explorer. (Photo courtesy of The Explorers Club) Frederik Paulsen, a top business executive, is also a first-rate explorer. (Photo courtesy of The Explorers Club)

Jim Clash: How did you originally get involved with The Explorers Club?

Frederik Paulsen: That’s a funny story. Someone with me on an expedition talked a lot about the club and helped me put in an application. But it got lost and, for two years, nothing happened. It’s not until we pushed and got it going again that I became a member [laughs].

JC: What does it mean now to be named an Honorary Director and also given a Lowell Thomas award?

FP: I have a lot on my CV, but this makes me proudest. I have been decorated by presidents, kings, queens – sort of dime-a-dozen stuff – but this, this is the real stuff. There is great satisfaction.

JC: What is the purpose of your $100,000 Explorers Club Foundation Mamont grant?

FP: I think it’s essential that you inspire, particularly young bright people with new ideas, to do their own expeditions. The [Explorers] Club has to rejuvenate itself. We have to bring in more people, a new generation, and I hope this is a way to help. We are confronted with a dramatic generational change. And this is something I want to be very much involved in. What’s the club going to look like in 10 years? Is the club going to be actually involved in exploration or just discuss it? Will it be some sort of National Geographic Society with as many members as possible? Or is it going to be a club for people that knew each other 50 years ago? These are all key issues.

JC: Compare risk-taking in pharmaceuticals to that in exploration.

FP: Pharmaceuticals is probably more of a risk business than exploration. We take about 15 years to develop a molecule into a finished drug given to patients for maybe 20 years, and it can cost up to a billion dollars. Every month during development, you can lose your total investment, so the risk is extraordinary. I would say what we’re doing when we’re climbing mountains, diving or getting into jungles is relatively risk-free [laughs] in comparison.

JC: Give an example of fear on an expedition and how you handled it.

FP: We were flying over the Bering Strait in an ultra-light aircraft. There are two tiny islands – the Diomedes – en route from Alaska to Chukotka. As we were passing them, a wind from the north turned the whole ultra-light sideways for about 300 meters. That’s a moment you read about in books where you see your life pass before you. There is not much you can do. You have to have a zen approach, avoid panic and try to stay as unnaturally calm as possible.

JC: What’s the next big thing in the pharma world?

FP: They’re searching deeper and deeper into understanding diseases. If you asked people 10 to 15 years ago whether it would be possible to treat Hepatitus C, they would have said no, but now we have three or four therapies on the horizon. This is the kind of thing you will see more of – and more dramatically as biochemistry becomes more sophisticated. There has been a recent hiatus, but this period is coming to an end.

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