Soundview Executive Book Summaries

A Moment to Catch One’s Breath

Think about your average day. From the moment your alarm clock jars you from sleep, you’re about to plunge into hour after hour of constant activity. For many of us, coffee is gulped while commuting, e-mails are answered while walking and lunch is a concept more than an actual noontime meal. Thank goodness the function of breathing is automatic because many of us would forget to do it. Add an extra layer of stress to the mix and suddenly, the whole process of an average day can put some folks quite on edge.

Managers have to contend with people in an agitated state from time to time. Depending on your line of work, it can seem like the workplace is involved in a constant state of unease, while in other trades (say, retail for example) intense reactions are more cyclical. Author Mark Goulston discusses a terrific way to handle this problem in his book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

He writes about the need to help people exhale both physically and emotionally.  We read from time to time about the use of breathing techniques as a method of stress reduction. Goulston supports this argument by pointing out that allowing an agitated person to emotionally exhale his or her emotions before attempting to seek a solution is necessary to prevent a conflict from growing.

Just Listen is full of some of the more interesting views on communication that I’ve read in some time. You can check it out for yourself. It’s part of Soundview’s February edition. Take a breather and do a little reading.

A Little Free Time
January 22, 2010, 3:56 PM
Filed under: Books in General | Tags: , , ,

I enjoy reading other blogs when I’m not busy writing this one (or reviewing one of the dozens of books that flood our editorial offices on a daily basis). Recently I came across this post on ReadWrite Start, a blog for entrepreneurs. The blogger listed three books that make for good weekend reading for budding entrepreneurs. I was glad to see him mention Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check. This book continues to be one of the best overall guides to the art of entrepreneurship. Kawasaki is also a straightforward writer with one of the best voices in business books today.

The blogger also mentions Chris Anderson’s FREE: The Future of a Radical Price. Those of you who were lucky enough to check out our recent Soundview Live event with Anderson know why his book’s popularity continues to climb. Some of the brightest entrepreneurs of tomorrow will have businesses based solely online. Understanding the zero price concept will be a key part of their ability to survive.

The blogger asserts that Kawasaki’s book, as well as Anderson’s, are a good way to spend some free time on a weekend. I agree, but between you and I, Soundview has summaries of both books available. We pack the essential information into eight pages, saving you time and maximizing your results. Click the links above to see where you can pick up our summaries of Reality Check and FREE. As for Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, well … maybe someday.

Making the Most of Your Mojo

Be honest … how many times each day do you check up on the folks you follow on Twitter? I’ve admitted before in this blog that I’m a bit slow to adapt when it comes to any technology or social media trend. The other Soundview editors and I tease one another about walking down the hall to relay information. “Walking? Jeez, couldn’t you just tweet your question to me?” Still, even I find myself taking a few peeks during the day to see what some of @Soundview’s friends are up to on Twitter.

Lately, I’ve made it a point to check in with Marshall Goldsmith (@coachgoldsmith) at least twice per day. Here at Soundview, we’re very excited about the upcoming release of Goldsmith’s new book Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It. Goldsmith has been a consistent favorite of Soundview subscribers and we’ve covered many of his works over his very successful career.

We’re delighted to say that we’ll be working with Goldsmith again in our next edition of Soundview Live. In our interactive Web event, Goldsmith will delve into the drivers behind mojo. It’s the emotions and decision making that occurs when one feels as though everything is on a roll. It’s a vital component of business and life. As we continue to press forward into economic recovery, some of the best opportunities will be taken by those who have the mojo to know their moment and seize it.

Take a look at what Goldsmith himself tweeted about mojo yesterday, “Mojo is vital for happiness and meaning because it is about loving what you do and showing it.”

I can hardly wait for our event. Soundview Live featuring Marshall Goldsmith will go live on Friday, February 5th, 2010 at Noon (eastern). For more information, visit us by clicking this link. Remember, if you’re a Soundview subscriber, this event is FREE to attend.

A Cup Full of Trouble?
January 18, 2010, 1:10 PM
Filed under: Books in General, Environment, Green | Tags: , , , , ,

Despite my best efforts, I continue to worry my way through life. I suppose it’s something with which many of our readers struggle. The business world, particularly over the last few years, is a place where worry is washed down with the morning cup of coffee. Depending on the material that makes up your cup, you could be adding to your troubles, at least, that’s what this article is speculating. Researchers are continuing to study the effects of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that has been banned by several manufacturers of baby bottles and no-spill cups for children. Now researchers are examining a possible link between the consumption of BPA (through drinking from beverage cans and bottles) and the risk of heart disease.

While the article acknowledges the tenuous nature of the current research results, it raises further question about the materials used to make everyday products and their long-term effects on humans and the planet. These questions are addressed at length in a book featured in our latest edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence is an excellent look into the knowledge gap between what we buy and what it does to us and our surroundings.

Goleman discusses a problem he describes as, “a fundamental disconnect between what we do and how it matters.” In reflecting on his work and how it relates to the BPA debate, I can’t help but notice that BPA gained widespread use in the 1950s. One change we’ve encountered as science and business have progressed over the past 60 years is a more determined effort on the part of companies and regulatory agencies to gain a better understanding (if only in the short term) of a product’s effects on individuals. This type of responsible manufacturing is a practice that continues to grow. Goleman notes that consumers play a key role in shaping the way companies treat the Earth.

One hopes that Goleman’s efforts to increase the number of informed consumers and producers will lead to the changes we need. Maybe then I can stop worrying about the cup in which my coffee comes and get back to something else on my list of concerns.

First You, Then the World

As we continue to contemplate the ways in which we can improve the world, many experts speculate that the secret may lie in first improving ourselves. Business books often support this logic. An organization is strengthened by having its components, from senior management to ground-floor staff, working on ways to improve their performance. With each individual raising his or her game, the company’s performance should climb, as well.

Scanning the titles that are part of our February edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries, I see that this progression from personal to global is represented.

Productive communication is a key part of personal development. Psychiatrist and business coach Mark Goulston provides executives with new, powerful communication techniques in his book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. So much of a manager’s job is finding the right communication methods to achieve results from a variety of audiences. This book is a great asset to help make the job a little easier.

Our special bonus summary this month is James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s rewarding leadership must-read The Leadership Challenge. This summary takes the best from the updated edition and reflects the new and changing ways in which leaders address their jobs in a global marketplace.

The global marketplace and the environmentally troubled globe on which it operates is the subject of our third summary Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. In a world that is driven by manufacturing and consumerism, what goes into all the “stuff” that fills our lives? More importantly, what happens to the “stuff” that is used to produce, package and ship all the stuff we buy? Goleman’s book attempts to answer these questions and provoke a new line of thinking on the part of both manufacturer and consumer. It’s an unsettling read but one that is filled with hope. It contains important arguments to aid the continued efforts to rescue the planet from ecological destruction.

We’ve got quite a trio of titles this month. Visit us at to learn more!

It Can Happen to Anyone

One of the more interesting stories to result from the financial fallout of the last several years is the way in which the American work force has experienced the downturn. Traditionally, times of recession bring about an inverted pyramid of impact in relation to the structure of any company. The workers who constitute the broad base of the pyramid are generally the hardest hit. Their jobs are first to disappear, as roles that were important during times of boom are deemed to have too much weight on the bottom line to be retained. Mid-level managers constitute the middle of the pyramid and experience layoffs in the areas that commonly get hit hard during times of economic uncertainty.

This leaves executives at the top of the pyramid. This is a group that forms a key component of our audience here at Soundview, one that usually is tasked with returning a company to its previous highs. However, in the same way that so little of this economic climate is predictable, executives have been facing the challenges that traditionally applies to the ground-level: layoffs and the search for comparable employment.

This article from a recent edition of USA Today discusses the difficulty facing executives whose once solid positions have given way beneath the weight of the economic crisis (and its subsequent recovery process). As companies try to recover lost profits and restore shareholder confidence, the large salaries commanded by many executives are viewed as an expense may firms are as yet unable to handle. Executives are also hurting from the struggling housing market, since many unemployed executives are unable to adequately downsize due to their current homes losing value. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the crisis discussed in the article is the unspoken hiring bias for “overqualified” executives. The impression is that once the economy rights itself, the top execs will leave lower-paying jobs to return to their formerly verdant pastures. Some companies aren’t willing to take the risk and hire someone who is on the clock to depart.

Any executives looking for an extra lifeline during these difficult times may want to consult Soundview’s Survive and Thrive Collection. This set of 15 summaries contains some great information from leading authors on how to navigate the unpredictable nature of our current economy.

The Top Title … According to You

We asked. You answered, and I can not thank you enough. Soundview recently polled its subscribers for their vote for the best business book of 2009. We received an avalanche of votes and after running them through our various computational methods, we are pleased to announce that the 7th Annual Harold Longman Award for Best Business Book goes to Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

I can honestly say this was one of the most difficult  decisions we’ve put to readers in some time. We’re very careful in selecting the titles that reach our readers each month, but we’re often surprised to find that some of our 30 best each year are clear favorites among subscribers. The field of contenders this year was absolutely stacked. It included some of the most diverse, thought-provoking books from top name authors. Among the contenders were Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check, Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology and Keith Ferrazzi’s Who’s Got Your Back, to name just three. If these books were grapes growing on a vine, we may look back at 2009 as an exceptional vintage.

The debate was intense among readers and even within our own editorial department. It seemed as though everyone had a favorite title and (secretly, of course) we each were hoping it would be our “horse” that would be first across the finish line. I owe you fine folks in our reader base a debt of gratitude, because my personal favorite title came out on top.

If you’ve yet to read Talent is Overrated, there is no better time than the present. Colvin’s examination of the truth behind what we label world-class talent reveals that it has very little to do with chance. Examining notable names from the worlds of business, sports and the arts, Colvin digs deep to uncover the methods which led the best in these fields to their lofty positions. One aspect of the book which cinched it as my personal favorite is Colvin’s acknowledgment of the lonely, difficult path that many describe as the “curse of genius.” The book is an essential read for executives who wish to gain a better understanding of why some people soar so far above the rest … and what it takes to join those ranks. The journey through the forge of Colvin’s “deliberate practice” is something which reader’s are unlikely to forget.

Congratulations to Colvin for winning the Longman Award, and congratulations to you for another excellent selection!

Here’s Some Free Advice

I’ll openly admit that I struggled over the title of this post. The expression “Here’s some free advice” is one of my least favorite in our vernacular, but it seems fitting in light of the topic: zero price as a business strategy.

Soundview’s first edition of 2010 featured a summary of Chris Anderson’s book Free: The Future of a Radical Price. I’ve mentioned this title once or twice because it was one of the most unique books written in 2009. One concept to which I’ve returned several times after finishing the book is the Anderson’s contention that free is now just another pricing version.

He discusses the use of “versioning” in pricing to describe the way individuals will pay different prices for the same product. One reason I keep thinking about this idea is that I find myself constantly looking around for examples. I took advantage of the extra showings that movie theaters were running during the holidays and went to a movie before noon, a rarity in my neighborhood. Anderson uses the movies as an example of an instance of versioning. I went to an 11:00 a.m. show because I wanted a matinee price (and because I knew I wouldn’t inadvertently doze off as I occasionally do at late evening shows). However, my lower-cost ticket gained me admission to the exact same film viewed from the exact same seat for which people would pay $11 per ticket in a few hours.

I understand that I was really paying for the time of day, rather than the ticket, but it reinforces Anderson’s point that free has become just another price point: full price, half price, no price. We’re not at the point where theaters are offering free showings, but instances of a free preview if you buy a ticket for a current release occur from time to time. As theaters continue to compete with better home viewing experiences, one wonders where the future of free in the world of the box office is headed.

And now for my free advice. If you would like to learn more about the use of free as a pricing strategy, particularly as it applies to online commerce, Chris Anderson will be the next guest on Soundview Live. On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at Noon Eastern (9:00 a.m. Pacific), the Editor in Chief of WIRED magazine will discuss his book Free, as well as answer listener questions during a live, interactive Web conversation. Best of all, this event is (that’s right) FREE for Soundview subscribers. Click the above link to learn more about Soundview Live and be sure to join us on Wednesday, January 13!

Tackling the To-Do List

Of all the Mondays that surface throughout a given year, this particular Monday has to be among folks’ least favorites. The first Monday after the start of a new year is generally when most people return “in force” to the office. Let’s face it, the majority of us work the kind of job where we were still diligently checking our e-mail and various digital devices during the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Day. “Time off” is a relative term for most workers and it’s even more rare during times of economic uncertainty.

The new year is the start of many things. It’s when we attempt resolutions and use the first few days of January as a launching pad for change in our lives. The changing of the calendar is a great time to start something new. Of course, for the bulk of us, we entered our offices this morning with plenty to keep us occupied. Tackling a lengthy to-do list should probably replace resolutions as a New Year’s tradition.

It could be worse. You could have this executive’s to-do list. After reading it over, worrying about writing this blog didn’t bother me as much.

Author Bob Johansen understands the challenges that leaders currently face. In his book Leaders Make the Future, he discusses the disruptive environment that is causing a real challenge for traditional leaders. He terms our current era as a VUCA world, one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. What makes Johansen’s book interesting is that he takes a global perspective on the changing role of the leader. Backed by more than 10 years of research from the Institute for the Future, Johansen’s advice may help to solve some of the more complicated problems faced by leaders today.

It’s definitely worth a look … not that I mean to add another item to your lengthy to-do list.