Monthly Archives: June 2013

Robert Mondavi

Like a lot of us in the wine industry Mr. Mondavi was more than just another employer or vintner ..he was a true inspiration. He valued  the connection between people, food and wine and family. It is a great honor for us at Benchmark Consulting to honor Mr. Mondavi and hope to continue on in his shadow of undying commitment to the best.

“I went throughout the world to find out what my competition was. And then I stopped at nothing to improve what we are doing, to excel. But you have to have faith in yourself; you have to be willing to work hard. You’ll have many naysayers who say ‘No-no.’ Plow ahead! If you have it in your heart, you can achieve it. And that goes for any business. Put your heart and soul into what you do. Work hard. You have to gamble, but gamble intelligently. That takes dedication. But that’s all, it’s very simple!” –Robert Mondavi

This June 18th marks what would have been Robert Mondavi’s 100th birthday; he passed away in 2008 at the age of 94. It’s been almost six yearsand we are still commemorating the man who is best known as the Father of American Wine. His life story reads better than an epic novel rife with risk-taking, vision and of course family drama. Born in Virginia, Minnesota to Italian immigrant parents, Cesare and Rosa, wine was always part of life for Mondavi. The family moved to California where Robert later attended high school in Lodi and eventually Stanford University. In 1943, his parents, after much urging from Robert, purchased Charles Krug Winery in Napa and Robert joined the enterprise along with his brother Peter.  The drama began in 1965 when Mondavi was ‘fired’ from the winery over major disagreements about winemaking direction and vision. Shortly after his dismissal, Robert purchased his own winery in Oakville with the specific goal of making world-class wines that could compete with anything in Europe.

It all sounds so obvious to us now, but in the 1960’s Napa was just farmland. According to the late Mondavi’s wife, Margrit Mondavi, ” In 1960 the Valley was still kind of like a little country town, I think there were 17,000 acres of grapes, today there are 40,000. There wasn’t a paved road. Much of the Valley was for sale; it was still sort of recuperating from the war and the Depression and all of that. Many people didn’t believe in it. But he went forward, built a new winery, the first new winery since Prohibition.

Today the winery is in corporate hands, but the legacy of Mondavi’s belief and passion lives on though the countless small producers who populate the Napa Valley, and the United States as a whole. His philanthropy is also a legacy with his $10 million dollar gift to the University of California at Davis for the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and $25 million for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. He not only championed premium wine, he elevated the very idea of American wine and food as something to be celebrated, shared and savored.

The winery will be hosting several events to honor this anniversary, including a concert with Martina McBride. Festivities begin on June 29th, for additional information and to purchase tickets, Click Here or visit eventbrite.com or call 1-888-769-5299. All additional inquiries can be sent to concerts@robertmondaviwinery.com.

Robert Mondavi: “I went throughout the world to find out what my competition was. And then I stopped at nothing to improve what we are doing, to excel. But you have to have faith in yourself; you have to be willing to work hard. You’ll have many naysayers who say ‘No-no.’ Plow ahead! If you have it in your heart, you can achieve it. And that goes for any business. Put your heart and soul into what you do. Work hard. You have to gamble, but gamble intelligently. That takes dedication. But that’s all, it’s very simple!”

Margrit Mondavi, wife of Robert Mondavi: “He gave everybody advice. Bob’s ecumenical spirit: ‘the more good wine that comes out of Napa Valley the better it is for me.’ So he shared, he was generous, he was philanthropic and I believe that was his biggest contribution to Napa Valley. ”

Glenn Workman (Robert Mondavi Wines Vice President & General Manager): “I used to give him a bad time once in a while about not having a rearview mirror in his car because he was so focused on the future and what was in front of him, that, yeah even though we had accomplished something, there is a lot more that lay ahead. He was in his 50s and still had an incredible drive. He was setting the tone not only for Robert Mondavi Winery but for Napa Valley wines as well as the wine industry in the United States, in my opinion, and it was a passion that was exciting.”

Peter Mondavi (Robert Mondavi’s younger brother): “We can be very thankful for what he did for the wine business. I’m talking overall, especially Napa Valley. He was the real ambassador of it. Of all the people I’ve known in the wine business, and I’ve known quite a few of them, there’s no one that could compete with him as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t think there will ever be another one who can do what my brother did. He did wonders for the Napa Valley.”

Genevieve Janssens (Winemaker, Robert Mondavi Winery): “I was very young when I moved to Napa Valley and I was under the absolutely incredibly vision of Mr. Mondavi who was quite a detail-oriented, passionate man. I think it’s a great way to live and make wine.”

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Katie Kelly Bell

Forbes Contributor

The New Science of Building Great Teams

 

Artwork: Andy Gilmore, Chromatic, 2010, digital drawing

If you were looking for teams to rig for success, a call center would be a good place to start. The skills required for call center work are easy to identify and hire for. The tasks involved are clear-cut and easy to monitor. Just about every aspect of team performance is easy to measure: number of issues resolved, customer satisfaction, average handling time (AHT, the golden standard of call center efficiency). And the list goes on.

Why, then, did the manager at a major bank’s call center have such trouble figuring out why some of his teams got excellent results, while other, seemingly similar, teams struggled? Indeed, none of the metrics that poured in hinted at the reason for the performance gaps. This mystery reinforced his assumption that team building was an art, not a science.

The truth is quite the opposite. At MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, we have identified the elusive group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams—those blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams. These dynamics are observable, quantifiable, and measurable. And, perhaps most important, teams can be taught how to strengthen them.

Looking for the “It Factor”

When we set out to document the behavior of teams that “click,” we noticed we could sense a buzz in a team even if we didn’t understand what the members were talking about. That suggested that the key to high performance lay not in the content of a team’s discussions but in the manner in which it was communicating. Yet little of the research on team building had focused on communication. Suspecting it might be crucial, we decided to examine it more deeply.

Why Do Patterns of Communication Matter So Much?

It seems almost absurd that how we communicate could be so much more important to success than what we communicate.

Yet if we look at our evolutionary history, we can see that language is a relatively recent development and was most likely layered upon older signals that communicated dominance, interest, and emotions among humans. Today these ancient patterns of communication still shape how we make decisions and coordinate work among ourselves.

Consider how early man may have approached problem solving. One can imagine humans sitting around a campfire (as a team) making suggestions, relating observations, and indicating interest or approval with head nods, gestures, or vocal signals. If some people failed to contribute or to signal their level of interest or approval, then the group members had less information and weaker judgment, and so were more likely to go hungry.

For our studies, we looked across a diverse set of industries to find workplaces that had similar teams with varying performance. Ultimately, our research included innovation teams, post-op wards in hospitals, customer-facing teams in banks, backroom operations teams, and call center teams, among others.

We equipped all the members of those teams with electronic badges that collected data on their individual communication behavior—tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to and how much, and more. With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. Not only that, but they are as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions—combined.

Patterns of communication, for example, explained why performance varied so widely among the seemingly identical teams in that bank’s call center. Several teams there wore our badges for six weeks. When my fellow researchers (my colleagues at Sociometric Solutions—Taemie Kim, Daniel Olguin, and Ben Waber) and I analyzed the data collected, we found that the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings. Together those two factors explained one-third of the variations in dollar productivity among groups.

Drawing on that insight, we advised the center’s manager to revise the employees’ coffee break schedule so that everyone on a team took a break at the same time. That would allow people more time to socialize with their teammates, away from their workstations. Though the suggestion flew in the face of standard efficiency practices, the manager was baffled and desperate, so he tried it. And it worked: AHT fell by more than 20% among lower-performing teams and decreased by 8% overall at the call center. Now the manager is changing the break schedule at all 10 of the bank’s call centers (which employ a total of 25,000 people) and is forecasting $15 million a year in productivity increases. He has also seen employee satisfaction at call centers rise, sometimes by more than 10%.

by Alex “Sandy” Pentland

Harvard Business Review

Alex “Sandy” Pentland is a professor at MIT, the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and the chairman of Sociometric Solutions.