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Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Monday, November 11, 2013, 3:45 AM
Daniel J. Hilferty

Sometimes when I'm interviewing executives, I find myself mystified by how they think: Take this quote from Daniel J. Hilferty, chief executive of Independence Blue Cross, just tossed off casually as he was describing his background:  "...And then I realized I was a pretty good leader."

"Realized I was pretty good leader." ??? How does this kind of realization come about?

Do people keep finding themselves elected -- elected to the head of the Cub Scout pack? Elected to the president of the Student Council?  Do they look in the mirror while they are knotting their red power ties and say, `Wow, I sure can lead.'"

POSTED: Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 4:45 AM
QlikTech CEO Lars Björk in his Radnor office: "Everyone who joins the company, in whatever position, has to go to Qlik Academy" in Sweden. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

Lars Bjork says he's the first Swede to take an American company (Radnor's Qlik Technologies Inc.) public. Who knows if that's really true, but, in our recent Leadership Agenda interview, he talked about how going public affected his management style.

Bjork says he believes, generally, in open management. One component? Making company financial information readily available to employees -- the idea being that transparency breeds engagement and collaboration.

But that kind of financial transparency is not entirely possible under U.S. Securities Exchange Commission regulations:

POSTED: Monday, November 4, 2013, 4:15 AM
QlikTech CEO Lars Björk in his Radnor office: "Everyone who joins the company, in whatever position, has to go to Qlik Academy" in Sweden. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

Considering what they make, it's hard to feel entirely sorry for executives, but now that I've interviewed 10 of them for this Leadership Agenda series, I do find that there are tough parts to their jobs. Chief among them, I think, is loneliness. They are around people all the time, but the people they are near physically -- fellow denizens on executive row in their companies, customers, industries colleagues, competitors, are not people they can turn to for advice or comfort.

Many executives understand this -- and it's interesting to see what they do to cope.

Some of them belong to organizations -- there are networks of executives who form small groups that meet regularly. These are peers who can discuss business problems with each other that they can't discuss with people in their own companies. Some of them build friendships through groups like Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group, GPSEG, a group dedicated to networking and career building on the executive level. (It also helps senior executives who have been booted find a new life). 

POSTED: Friday, November 1, 2013, 4:20 AM

New Jersey voters will decide on Tuesday whether to raise the state's minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, with an automatic increase tied to the Consumer Price Index. Not surprisingly, many employers aren't big fans of this referendum.

Can employers gather employees and express their feelings about how the vote should go, or does that count as intimidation?  Lawyer John J. Sarno, writing for the Employers Association of New Jersey, discusses employer options.

Sarno points out that in 2006, New Jersey legislators enacted the Worker Freedom from Employer Intimidation Act. The law prohibits most employers from requiring employees to attend employer-sponsored meetings or to participate in communications involving the employer's opinion about religious or political matters. Does the minimum wage referendum count as a political matter? Maybe. Employers can set up the meetings, but they must also inform employees that they do not have to attend and they won't be penalized for refusing.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 3:40 AM
Kevin Cramton, CEO of Cardone Industries, the city's largest manufacturer, with his "baby." (April Saul / Staff Photographer)

Cardone Industries is a Philadelphia business with a 43-year history, but its CEO, Kevin Cramton, is a relative outsider, having come to lead the family-run firm in August, 2012.

As the head of the city's largest manufacturing company, Cramton wasted no time in getting involved with the city, joining Mayor Nutter's manufacturing advisory commission. In my Leadership Agenda interview, I asked him about doing business in Philadelphia.

"I’m on this commission," he said. "We had some independent advisers and Philadelphia ranked near the bottom in terms of its lack of favorability as a business climate from the tax policy standpoint, from the regulatory standpoint. It wasn’t a surprise, but at the same time, Philadelphia and this greater area compete for employers on a global scale."

POSTED: Monday, October 28, 2013, 4:35 AM
The Philadelphia skyline.

What's good about Philadelphia? People tend to stick around -- generation to generation, even in the same neighborhood. What's bad about Philadelphia? People tend to stick around. They don't want to leave. That tendency has posed a problem that Cardone Industries' CEO has never encountered anywhere else he worked on the globe.

"One of the challenges we have is we have operations all throughout North America is to get our people to be willing to leave Philadelphia, even for an assignment," Keith Cramton, the relatively new chief executive at Cardone Industries, told me during our Leadership Agenda interview. "They  have roots here that go back, in some cases, for a couple hundred years, which is new for me."

Cramton spent most of his career working for Ford Motor Co., but for them, and other firms, he worked all over the nation, and the world, living for a time in Japan, among other places. In Philadelphia, he heads the city's largest manufacturing facility. The company re-manufactures auto parts. It has a plant here and another in Mexico, plus various distribution facilities around Canada and the U.S, particularly in Texas.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 10:39 AM

When I first met Amy Dinning, she was sort of employed and sort-of-not, locked in the role of independent contractor and sweating it each time the contract came up for renewal. A human resource specialist, she didn't really consider that she had a job, just a series of breathing places on the rocky climb to employment.

Over the last couple of years, Amy has put together a one-day workshop for the unemployed, particularly aimed at people who recently lost their jobs. Titled "Jump-Start Your Job Search," this year's session takes place Saturday, Nov. 2  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are sessions on motivation, marketing, networking and interviewing, some with authors who have written books on related topics. The place is the Church of the Saviour, the cost is $15 and lunch is not included, so pack one!

This event is sponsored by Church of the Saviour, ASTD Philadelphia chapter, Doubletree Hotel Valley Forge, Greater Valley Forge Human Resources Association, Hire One “a CCEDC initiative”, My Career Transitions, Penn State Great Valley Career Center and St. Joseph’s University.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 3:25 AM
Peter Luukko plays early-morning hockey at the Wells Fargo Center when not working as president and chief operating center of Comcast-Spectacor. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff)

Flyers President Peter A. Luukko also serves as chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, a business that generates $4 billion in sales. He also plays hockey many mornings a week with his co-workers. (Not the Flyers!) He's been a coach and his children also play hockey.

In my Leadership Agenda interview, I asked him what lessons from sports apply to business. Of course he mentioned teamwork, the aggressive pursuit of a common goal and the importance of locker-room camaraderie in a business setting. But it was another point he made that really struck me:

"The thing you learn most in sports, frankly, is team work and how to lose," he said. "Winning’s easy. When you win, you know, it’s fun, everybody’s getting credit. It’s easy.When you lose, you have that terrible feeling in your stomach that you can’t describe.

About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer