One of our time's most influential management thinkers, Tom Peters, is a man full of passion and insights – things that your grandparents may have told you when you were little, but you just forgot because you got busy.

Tom Peters shared his life lessons through quotes and messages from some of the world's leading thinkers and innovators.

According to Peters, amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals speak about logistics. This is so true, particularly when we look at organisational effectiveness. It's about getting the execution right - it doesn't matter the strategy.

Execution is the all-important last 95% of the process.

Re-imagine Excellence is his message. And he sums it up with:

  1. People
  2. Customers
  3. Action
  4. Values

Enterprise at its best needs to be an emotional, vital, innovative, loyal, creative, entrepreneurial endeavour that affects people. Joy must be the core belief of our workplace and why organisations exist. Employers need to put people first – but put them first.

Businesses need to re-imagine their role and consider giving people enriching, rewarding lives. Otherwise, it's simply not worth doing, as Richard Branson said.

the question is, how can you operationalise this?

Yes, the hurdle is high, but it's the best way in the world to make money, and with the technology tsunami coming and changing work and workplaces, we need to ensure we have turned on people so that our workplaces survive this.

Treat your employees like customers.
If you want staff to give excellent service, provide a great service to staff. It's so essential and apparent, yet we don't practice it all that often. Peters says when he looks back on his life, he'll remember the people he helped, the lives he changed and not the quarterly earnings and results achieved.

What employees experience, customers will, so customers will never be happier than your employees. It's important to remember that.

training = investment

Something which almost brought Tom Peters to tears. If there is 3-star general worrying about training in the Australian Army, why is training not put higher on the agenda in all organisations? In most businesses, a ho-hum, mid-level staff functions for training and development. He believes nothing is more important than training and suggested the head of training should be as senior as the CIO and CFO. What upsets Peters is that the CEO would not mention training in every meeting he has with CEOs around the world in more than 8 out of 10 cases within the 45 min tour of the business strategy.

Yet he can't understand it and sends a clear, strong message to all senior executives in Australia – go berserk over training. Why? Because it pays off. And he then takes it further to say that training courses need to be so good they make you jump up and down with glee about how great it was. If your people aren't doing that, why aren't they?

It's not rocket science – a message he consistently shared with the World Business Forum.

If you randomly stop an employee in the hall, can they meticulously describe their development plan for the next 12 months? If not, why not?

The most crucial asset in any organisation is the first line of bosses. They are your productivity asset, the no. 1 strategic variable and support in the organisation. Yes, it isn't easy to get right, yet so critically important.

The fact remains - people leave managers, not companies.

women rule

Women are close to Peter's heart, and he believes women rule – because women are proven to be more successful in leadership positions and in helping organisations succeed. To succeed, he encourages organisations to start promoting women.

develop your people

Back on people and development, Peters says with the technology tsunami, there is a moral imperative to invest in this. Yet CEOs need to also invest in their personal development. We all have to become students like before in a world where computers are taking over.

The principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skillsets, 'soft' and 'hard' of every person in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities.

The good news is, that this is also the No. 1 mid to long-term profit maximisation strategy.


Peters truly believes that whoever tries the most stuff wins. His motto is Kevin Roberts' motto - Ready, fire, aim! Whereas most other companies live by 'ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim.'

He encourages everyone to experiment fearlessly through relentless trial and error - it's the key to success. If you fail faster, you'll succeed sooner, and I believe that business leaders should reward excellent failures, not celebrate mediocre success and cheerlead for mistakes in your organisation.

focus on the little big things (LBTs)

Pursuing dramatic innovation in your business is not about writing a cheque. Your world is littered with tiny, inexpensive ideas, and if you try enough of them, you'll succeed.

Just be amenable to rapid experiential failure and seriously play. You can't be a severe innovator until you are ready, willing and able to play seriously.

Serious play is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation. Regardless of the size of your enterprise – encourage culture and spirit of playfulness.

What matters most to a company over time? Strategy or culture?

The answer is absolute, culture!

TGRs: 8/80

Research has found that only 8% of customers describe the service experience of a company as superior, yet 80% of companies describe it as excellent. Focus on those little things that make a significant impact, the little touches. Decrease the things that go wrong and increase the things that go right.

LBTs vs BBTs

According to Peters, the courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones that strike most profound in the grateful and appreciating heart. He says this is not an excellent quote; it is a strategic idea, i.e. this is your strategy. Little big things are better than big things. – it's the things that come out of the blue to surprise you and help you remember which make a huge impact.

the customer is in control.

In business, you are either creating brand ambassadors or brand terrorists assassinating your brand. What used to be word of mouth is now word of mouse, and the customer is in complete control.

big data, big $

Know this - women buy everything. Peters says women drive economic growth – forget China, India and the internet.

And it's the baby boomers who have all the money. The Millennials have no money, yet all marketing, product development and distribution seem to be aimed at millennials. Did you know that one baby boomer turns 65 years old every 8 seconds and will do so for the next 20 years in the US.

The average American will buy 13 automobiles in their lifetime, seven of which will be after the age of 50. The net worth of families in the US headed by people over the age of 65 is 47X higher than other families. And more internet shopping is done by people over 55 than under 55.

So the two most enormous marketing opportunities on earth are older people and women. And Baby Boomer women are a gift.

leadership: I do people

Peters says successful business leaders need to be excited about developing people as much as building business. He says you need MBWA/25 -- manage by wandering around.

This is a metaphor for staying in touch with people and the organisation, particularly as things become more complex. Senior leaders need to see and feel and touch the customer experience otherwise. You have no idea what's going on.


It's the most powerful word in the English language because the most profound urge in human nature is the desire to be necessary. Employees who don't feel significant rarely make significant contributions – remember that!

Always ask your people, "what do you think?" You'll be amazed at what comes out of the conversation and the ideas it will generate.

When problems arise, the problem is rarely ever the problem but rather the response to the problem, which invariably ends up being the problem.

Meetings Rock!

Or at least they should. Peters says, when you sign up to be a boss, you sign up to go to meetings. If you don't like it, that's tough just have to overcome it.

Meetings are the number one leadership opportunity we all have – you need to focus on Excellence, enthusiasm, engagement, learning and tempo. And make sure you do this with 100% of your meetings. Think about meeting Excellence - it's what you do as a leader!

We have too many 18-second managers – i.e. they interrupt others within 18 seconds. The core value of the best leaders is the skill of listening. You need to be highly effective listeners and treat attending Excellence as the centrepiece of your commitment to respect, engagement, community, and growth.

Peters finished by referring to the fact that if the Pope can effect change in the most bureaucratic organisation in the world, then surely all business leaders can effect significant change within their organisations.

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Randstad is proud to be a major sponsor of the World Business Forum in Sydney from 27-28 May 2015. 

about the author

tom peters


Sharp, controversial and provocative, Tom is one of the most influential management thinkers of the last thirty years. Attributed to inventing the "management guru industry" along with the legendary Peter Drucker, he has shaped the idea of modern management more than any other person over the last six decades. A prolific bestselling author, he is the co-author of In Search of Excellence — the book that changed the way the world does business and is considered by many the best book in management history. His latest work, The Little BIG Things, is a guide to achieving excellence in all its forms.

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