Soundview Executive Book Summaries

A Best-Selling Author’s Leadership Advice

Leadership is one of the most popular topics with subscribers to Soundview Executive Book Summaries. We do our best to fulfill subscriber requests for the latest in leadership materials, whether it’s through book summaries, collections, or exclusive webinars with top authors. However, there’s one leadership resource about which you may not be aware.

Have you signed up for Soundview’s Leadership Alert? This FREE e-newsletter provides exclusive insight into leadership issues. It often features interviews with authors whose names top the best-seller lists of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Here’s a link to a recent issue of Leadership Alert that includes a special interview with best-selling author Daniel Pink. He’s the author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation.

In the above issue of Leadership Alert, he discusses his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I definitely found myself considering whether I was a Type I or Type X personality. Take a look at Pink’s descriptions of the two personality types. Do you see yourself as one or the other? Drop us a comment and let us know what you think.

In the meantime, visit our Website at and sign up for our FREE e-newsletter Soundview’s Leadership Alert. Also, if you like the interview with Daniel Pink, you might want to join us for our next edition of Soundview Live. Daniel Pink will be our special guest! It’s July 8, 2010 at Noon (eastern) and is FREE for subscribers.

CEOs Know the World is Watching

It seems like each morning brings us new headlines in the on-going crisis in the Gulf region. Sometimes news stories go by at such a clip that it’s difficult to decide which one deserves comment in a forum like this blog, one which isn’t specifically devoted to what’s generally termed “hard news.” However, there was one recent story that ties in to a summary Soundview featured this year.

There was near universal outrage when BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward took a day off to watch his yacht compete in a race. BP spokespeople claimed it was Hayward’s first day off in months. Unfortunately, this is a situation where the court of public opinion decides whether an individual deserves a day off or not. The issue brings up the way in which a CEOs actions rapidly become fodder for public debate. CEOs aren’t elected officials. They are private individuals, but the top positions in high-profile companies carry a set of expectations on par with political office. Is this fair? I’ll leave that for you to comment.

Hayward’s actions remind us of some poor decision-making profiled by author Tim Irwin, Ph.D. in his book Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership. The book is one of the more popular summaries currently in our library. Hayward attending a yacht race is similar to Irwin’s discussion of former Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli’s private elevator at Home Depot headquarters. When asked by Soundview about Nardelli, Irwin said, “Over time, that elevator became this glaring symbol. It was a picture of his alienation and his dismissive attitude toward people at Home Depot. Nardelli lost the confidence of the very people he needed to fulfill his vision for the company.”

One can only wonder if Hayward’s yacht will come to be a similar symbol.

Tackling the Tough Questions

The past week proves that even the highest levels of our government and military experience the same problems that plague the modern workplace. While not every office has embedded journalists tracking their movements from the desk to the copier, some aspects of the dust-up between President Barack Obama and General Stanley McChrystal are easy to relate. Imagine if your human resources representative came to your office to report that an employee was posting insulting messages about you on his or her Facebook page during work hours. The fact that Obama holds the highest office in the land doesn’t change the fact that he needed to follow through with a disciplinary review. McChrystal faced the same long walk to the boss’s office that many employees have taken over the years. The difference is that his trip ended in the Oval Office.

I can’t help but marvel at the coincidence of this event coming directly on the heels of our recent Influencing for Change Webinar series featuring the authors of VitalSmarts. Attendees of the last event were able to see an informative video presentation on the VitalSmarts’ title Crucial Confrontations, a book that won Soundview’s Harold Longman Award as Best Business Book of the Year in 2004. When you consider the book’s title, the situation between McChrystal and President Obama meets the ultimate definition of a Crucial Confrontation, doesn’t it?

While the meeting took place behind closed doors, the result of General David Petraeus replacing McChrystal’s command in Afghanistan continues to stir up debate. It’s also excellent fodder for conversation among people who study management. What are your thoughts on the change of command from a management standpoint? Leave politics aside for a moment and let us know if you think the infraction merited the result.

And for those of you want more information on Crucial Confrontations, you have THREE options:

1. Follow this link to find out how you can watch the archived video Webinar with Al Switzler.

2. Visit us at to hear a previous audio Webinar featuring Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson.

3. Download a copy of the original summary in the format you prefer.

Another Battle in the E-Book War

If you follow Soundview on Twitter (and really, why wouldn’t you?), you probably look forward to the regular E-Book News feature. It’s a great way to stay up to date on the latest in e-publishing. One of the big stories this week involved the price drop on e-reading devices by both Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The news of the steep price cuts made waves throughout the industry and hit the blogosphere with a bit of force.

One of the more interesting comments on the continuing e-book war came from technology blogger Om Malik. As I read his column about Amazon’s potential to win the e-book market, I became curious about how the average reader is using the technologies available now. So, I thought I’d ask:

If you are a Kindle user, are you still using the device? Malik states in his blog that he’s swapped the device for the Kindle app on the iPad instead. However, he notes that he still uses Amazon for his e-book downloads rather than Apple’s iBook store. If you’re using the Barnes & Noble Nook, how do you feel about the price drop? Are you interested in the Wi-Fi capabilities of the new Nook?

As I considered my own thoughts on the competition in the e-reader market, I returned to one small, but vital, fact in the Publishers Weekly story: “In addition to lowering the price of the Kindle 2 from $259 to $189, Amazon is selling the device at all of Target’s 1740 stores around the country, the first time the device has been for sale at a retailer other than Amazon.”

Soundview is currently working on a summary of author Kevin Maney’s book Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don’t. In the book, Maney discusses the decision to offer fidelity (high quality at a high price) versus convenience (readily available for mass consumption but without mystique). By lowering the price and selling the Kindle through Target stores, Amazon is taking a giant leap toward convenience, something that may help win the e-book war.

Speaking of convenience, while the e-reader manufacturers are busy battling it out, Soundview continues to offer its product in eight (that’s right, eight!) digital formats. Visit us at to learn more and stay alert for an announcement about the Trade-Off summary.

In Health Care, Silence Kills

If you attended Soundview’s recent “Influencing for Change” Webinar with VitalSmarts author Al Switzler, you may have heard him refer to a Web site called It certainly piqued my curiosity, so I went to the site to give it a closer look. The site was created by VitalSmarts and is devoted to the need for critical communication in the health care field. It had some surprising statistics. Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • 84 percent of doctors have seen coworkers taking shortcuts that could be dangerous to patients.
  • 88 percent of doctors work with people who show poor clinical judgement.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of physicians, nurses and other clinical staff directly confront their colleagues about their concerns.

Frightening, isn’t it? For those that may dismiss these findings as part of a random sample, consider the notes on the study provided on the Web site:

“Researchers conducted dozens of focus groups, interviews, and workplace observations, and then collected survey data from more than 1,700 nurses, physicians, clinical-care staff, and administrators during 2004. Research sites included 13 urban, suburban, and rural hospitals from across the U.S. Although, this is a relatively small sample and includes only 100 physicians, the findings paint a significant and compelling picture.” (

While the medical profession is one where critical decisions can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, it should make us all consider our own industries. What potential business deal is doomed to failure because someone neglected to have a crucial conversation with someone else?

If you missed the video Webinar with Al Switzler, you can still watch the archived video. Visit this link to see how you can still catch all of the insight. Don’t forget, there are also copies of the summaries of Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations and Influencer by the VitalSmarts authors available!

500-Plus Pages of Powerful Advice

It takes quite a bit of effort for Soundview to examine the hundreds of business books that arrive at our office. From all of these submissions, we arrive at the 30 best business books and summarize them. Of course, there are additional books beyond our 30 best that we still want to mention to our readers. We achieve this goal through the monthly installment of Speed Reviews we provide to every subscriber.

One book that recently came up for review is Tom Peters’ The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. This is a book whose tiny chapters and chaotic layout defy the process of summary, but we were very excited to discuss it with readers. Peters is best known for co-authoring the business classic In Search of Excellence. The Little Big Things is a collection of blog posts, edited and modified by Peters, that serves as a daily guide to excellence. Peters provides entries for more than 40 topic areas. It would be difficult for any executive to not find at least one takeaway from Peters’ work. His writing is bold and infused with extreme self-confidence.

Soundview has an in-depth review of Peters’ book available online at The best part? The review is FREE even if you aren’t a Soundview Subscriber! Don’t forget, we add a new crop of reviews each month.

A FREE Resource You HAVE to Use!

There’s a reason I tend to conclude my posts by telling everyone to visit Soundview’s Web site, The site is regularly updated with information about newly released executive book summaries, book reviews (1,000 FREE reviews and growing!), upcoming Soundview Live Webinars and other great business learning resources.

I’ve got great news about another new resource available at How much do you think it would cost to attend an event where you hear vital business lectures from speakers such as Bill George, Patrick Lencioni, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Paul Krugman and David M. Rubenstein, among others? The event is the World Business Forum, and a ticket can cost as much as $2,500.

Fortunately, Soundview has partnered with HSM Global, producers of the World Business Forum, to bring you exclusive audio summaries of the event’s major speakers. These audio summaries are available for you to listen to for FREE!

Each audio summary is a 10-minute MP3 that features a narrated overview of the speech. The summary includes actual clips from the live speech given by the presenter at World Business Forum. If these tough economic times meant that you weren’t able to spend $2,500 on a ticket to the World Business Forum, these FREE audio summaries allow you to hear what you missed.

I need to stress here that you do NOT have to be a Soundview subscriber to listen to the World Business Forum audio summaries. These exclusive content pieces are FREE for everyone to learn from and enjoy. In fact, I’d recommend starting with Patrick Lencioni, whose latest book Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty is now available as a Soundview summary!

To listen to the audio summaries from the World Business Forum, CLICK THIS LINK!

Don’t Miss These Great New Summaries!

Summer is known to be a time for blockbusters in the entertainment industry. Although the start date seems to be earlier each year, it’s generally accepted that by the middle of June, we’re well into a stretch of time that sees multiple big-budget, highly-anticipated films debuting every Friday in theaters across the nation.

I bring this up because the latest edition of Soundview Executive Book Summaries could easily be described as a summer blockbuster. We’ve got three incredible summaries for readers this month featuring some serious star-power in the author department. Let’s take a look at the titles in this exciting triple-feature:

For those who enjoy a great story as part of their learning experience, we start our latest edition with Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty. Lencioni, an expert at weaving fiction and strong business applications together, tells the tale of Jack, a consultant tasked with learning about a competitor his company recently acquired. Jack learns a surprising lesson about why absolute transparency can create intense loyalty in customers.

Innovation is a topic that continues to garner a great deal of interest among our subscribers. The U.S. is engaged in an ongoing race with developing nations to maintain an economic presence in the innovation arena. With this in mind, Adam Richards offers Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are Its Greatest Advantage. Richards offers an intriguing argument that defines a new class of business problems — X-Problems. These tough new challenges thwart conventional planning but present massive innovation opportunities.

Finally, we take a look at the building blocks of a great organization. While CEOs tend to garner attention from internal and external audiences, there are individuals in an organization who are an indispensable part of the company’s success. Marketing mastermind Seth Godin terms these individuals “linchpins” and his new book Linchpins: Are You Indispensable? helps readers understand how to exude the attributes of the linchpin employee.

Like I said, it’s a real blockbuster this month! It’s a great time to subscribe to Soundview. Also, each of the above summaries are available for individual purchase for low, low prices. The online edition of each summary is only $8.50. Depending on where you live, that’s less than the price of a movie ticket … and unlike the occasional big-budget action film, these summaries won’t disappoint.

Why Good Boundaries Make Good Leaders

From time to time, we like to feature a post from a guest blogger to give our readers a more in-depth look at one of the subjects we feature in our summaries. Today’s post comes to us from Keith Merron, founder and managing partner of Avista Consulting Group. Merron offers us an interesting thought on improving leadership by establishing boundaries.

Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Mending Wall, ends with the statement “Good fences make good neighbors.” 

The poem speaks to the mixed consequences of fences. They define personal space, and they separate.  Good boundaries are like that as well.

Boundaries are crucial for leadership.  Leaders that are not clear about expectations, goals, and values create ambiguous work places and the consequence is often confusion and unnecessary conflict.  Boundaries create a sense of what is acceptable and not acceptable.  They clarify.  They focus.  On the other hand, when held too rigidly, they create tension and a sense that there is no room for play. 

Rules, for example, are boundaries.  When applied rigidly they can be off-putting and people can feel patronized.  Rules, when applied sensibly, can be relaxing. Good boundaries create trust.

One of the signatures of a conscious leader is to know when to apply boundaries and when to relax them in the service of something bigger.  When values become rules, leaders act like “Big Brother”.  When values are principles, they teach us and guide us.  If they are too rigid, we lose our capacity to apply discretion. When they are too lax, they have no meaning.  When decisions become rigid, we run the risk of being unable to adapt in the face of changing circumstances.  When they are too loose, we are confused. 

I believe that one of the key characteristics a leader needs to embody is the ability to be decisive and yet open.  This means that the leader says: “I’m betting my money that this is the way to go, so let’s do it.” At the same time, the leader acknowledges that it may not be the right decision.  A good leader remains open to learning, and discovering new information that calls for an alternative decision.  This is a good boundary for a decision—held firmly but not too tightly.

Good boundaries make good leaders. 

Keith Merron is founder and managing partner of Avista Consulting Group, an organizational consulting and leadership development firm dedicated to helping organizations with bold visions achieve sustainable high performance and industry leadership. Dr. Merron received his doctorate from Harvard University and is the author of Riding the Way: Designing Your Organization for Enduring Success, Consulting Mastery: How the Best Make the Biggest Difference, and he is currently completing his next book, Your Inner Compass: Living the Authentic Life You Were Truly Meant to Live. For more information visit

Visit Soundview at and check out our latest leadership summaries, including Brian Tracy’s “How the Best Leaders Lead.”

What Business Book May Become Political Ammo?

As we’ve mentioned many times before in this blog, this is not a place for political discussion. However, political stories occasionally cross the border into the domain of business books. That’s our territory! Last night, with so many primaries taking place across the United States, one story in particular sparked my interest.

Carly Fiorina won the Republican nomination for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats. Fiorina will square off with three-term incumbent Barbara Boxer in November. As the respective political camps begin digging the trenches and stocking up on rhetorical ammunition, one wonders how Fiorina will fare when the subjects of leadership and economics are broached during debate. Fiorina’s supporters will obviously point to her success rising through the corporate ranks. Her detractors will likely focus on what happened after she reached the pinnacle of that success.

It’s a subject with which our subscribers are familiar. A few months ago, Soundview summarized Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin, Ph.D. Fiorina’s failed tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard is one of the examples Irwin uses to demonstrate poor leadership. In the summary, Irwin writes, “On Fiorina’s downfall, it is perhaps simplest to conclude that what led to her derailment were the shortcomings she saw abundantly in others but did not acknowledge in herself.”

While Boxer’s campaign could quote from Derailed, doing so would corrupt the intentions of the book’s author. One of Irwin’s primary purposes in writing the book was to use well-publicized downfalls to help executive’s recognize their own vulnerabilities. When Irwin appeared on Soundview’s Author Insight Series (a FREE MP3 podcast available exclusively for subscribers), he said, “What I tried to do was tell readers that, look, these are great individuals, highly competent, strategic, tough-minded and so on, but they made some really fundamental errors. Interestingly enough, these are also the character issues that can derail us.”

The fact that Fiorina overcame her lackluster dismissal from Hewlett-Packard and is now poised to make history supports Irwin’s thinking that character limitations aren’t permanent.

Visit us at to learn more about this excellent summary and see our latest summary releases.