Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Meetings: The Bane of Our Existence…Or Not

Meetings – we can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. They are a necessary evil of business life. If this is the way you feel about meetings, then read on.

There was a great article in the Wall St Journal on June 16th titled Meet the Meeting Killers. In the article we are introduced to five meeting killers; the Jokester, the Dominator, the Naysayer, the Rambler and the Quiet Plotter. Each of these types of people has their own way of making meetings difficult, if not impossible. Thankfully, the writer rates these meeting killers as to their level of nuisance, and provides ways to circumvent their negative effects.

For those of us who run meetings there are techniques to making a meeting run more smoothly such as having a “no-device” policy or having periodic “tech breaks” for people to catch up on communications. Stand up meeting can quicken the pace and keep people on task, and some issues can be dealt with in advance if a leader knows the people and their concerns well.

But there are also other types of people who can make meetings difficult, whose intentions are not to sabotage, but who simply have a different perspective on business issues. Les Mckeown introduces three such types in his book The Synergist.

The Visionary – the bold dreamer, this person has big ideas but little interest in execution.

The Processor – the pragmatic realist, they want to put every detail through a system.

The Operator – the systems designer, this person’s main focus is to get the meeting over with so they can get back to the “real work”.

Mckeown offer a solution in the form of a fourth type of person – the Synergist. Their job is to take the strengths of the other three types of people and knit them into a dynamic, well-rounded team. Because businesses need all three of these types to be successful, the challenge is how to get them to play well together. The synergist has the skills to make this happen and the good news is that anyone can learn how to be a synergist, recognizing the vital signs of ineffective teamwork and making the right interventions at those pivotal moments.

Les McKeown will be joining us on May 31st to explain in-depth the skills and techniques of the Synergist, and how they can harness the skills of the personalities in the room to become an effective and productive team. Lead Your Team to Predictable Success is a Free webinar open to everyone. Join us and learn how to transform your meetings.



Book Review: Good Boss, Bad Boss

by Robert I. Sutton

It’s not easy to follow-up a runaway success. Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, was faced with such a task. His 2007 best-seller The No Asshole Rule raised eyebrows for more than just its title. Sutton pulled no punches in his assessment of the toxic workplace culture created by brutal, oppressive individuals. In Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst, Sutton provides an ideal second installment. Now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary, Good Boss, Bad Boss moves the narrative forward. It gives readers a set of instructions to be the best managers they can be.

It’s interesting to note that Sutton was originally tempted to write a straight-ahead sequel to The No Asshole Rule, but after examining the situations in which many of the book’s stories occurred, he found that a boss was the central figure in nearly every case. Executives that read Good Boss, Bad Boss will be grateful that Sutton chose to focus on formulating a healthy management mindset. The practice of being a good boss requires diligence. Through case studies and research, Sutton reveals the necessary steps to move from a great mindset to transformational actions. As an added bonus, Sutton acknowledges that the bulk of individuals in management positions also report to someone, and he includes observations on surviving the worst flaws of a bad boss.

To download your copy of Good Boss, Bad Boss in any of Soundview’s digital formats, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.



The Importance of Storytelling in Business

 Jesus was having a discussion with a religious leader. When told that he might enter eternal life if he loved God and loved his neighbor, the man sought to justify himself by asking Jesus who his neighbor was. Jesus replied with the parable (story) of the Good Samaritan. Even though this conversation took place over 2,000 years ago, this story has become one of the best known stories of the last two centuries, even among those that have never read the New Testament. Jesus knew the power of the story.

Stories have always been a part of business communication, but in the last several years a trend has developed around the power of storytelling in business. I found over a dozen business books written in the past decade that specifically teach the importance of storytelling in organizations, whether to improve leadership, to help focus meetings, to sell more effectively, or to build strong teams. There is even a National Storytelling Network.

Robert McKee put it this way in the Harvard Business Review: “A big part of a CEO’s job is to motivate people to reach certain goals. To do that, he or she must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story.”

Storytelling is no longer just for CEOs, but the key truth is still the same – storytelling engages the emotions, assisting the speaker in communicating his or her point effectively. In Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte expands this point. Information is static; stories are dynamic – they help an audience visualize what you do or what you believe.

Patrick Lencioni has perfected the art of storytelling in his series of business books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and Getting Naked. Lencioni uses the fable as a way to engage the minds of his readers, communicating the business truths through the characters of the fable.

In The Story Factor, Annette Simmons introduces six story goals:

  • “Who I am” stories – stories that reveal something about how you are.
  • “Why I am here” stories – to reassure the audience about your intentions.
  • “The Vision” story – to transform your vision into the audience’s vision.
  • “Teaching” stories – to communicate certain skills you want others to have.
  • “Values in action” stories – story lets you instill values in a way that keeps people thinking for themselves.
  • “I know what you are thinking” stories – in a story you can identify potential objections and disarm the audience as you build credibility.

Perhaps it’s time to develop your own storytelling skills. The resources above will help and you can read more in our Executive Edge newsletter Learn the Art of Storytelling.



Take the Fear Out of Business Finances

So you finally got that promotion and today is your first day attending the management meeting. As you sit down among your new peers a thick report is passed out filled with numbers. These are the monthly financial reports and as you look through them you’re completely lost. What does it all mean and am I going to be asked to comment on these numbers?

Don’t panic. There are simple ways to get up to speed with the basics of business finances. You could enroll in a business finance course but that would take too long. Or you could read the book No Fear Finance by Guy Fraser-Sampson.

Fraser-Sampson takes the fear out of understanding business financially concepts and reports. In a very clear and methodical way he goes through all the basic information needed to understand and use and understand financial reports and tools.

Early in his book Fraser-Sampson distinguishes between Financial Accounts and Management Accounts. Financial accounts are used to report about a company to outsiders like shareholders, while management accounts are used by management to make business decisions.

Other topics covered include:

  • Basic financial concepts such as the time value of money, and financial instruments including stocks, bonds and derivatives.
  • The main investment concepts like liquidity, volatility, active versus passive investing and different return measurements.
  • Key accounting matters like balance sheet and income statement analysis, working capital and solvency.
  • Company life cycle events including M&A, capital raising, insolvency.

If you would like to get a head start on understanding business finances, please join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, No Fear Finance. Guy Fraser-Sampson will explain basic financial concepts for business use, and will take questions from the audience. Now is a great time to get your burning questions answered in a low-pressure environment.



Success Awaits with Three New Summaries

Executives are constantly fighting a battle on two fronts. There is the desire to improve the organization month by month and quarter by quarter. However, personal progress cannot be neglected in the pursuit of organizational excellence. After all, to make a better company, you need to be at your best. This month Soundview Executive Book Summaries features three summaries that will help you improve the performance of yourself, your team and your organization.

by Claudio Feser

Serial Innovators by Claudio Feser: The typical life expectancy of a company is estimated to be about 15 years. What does it take to exist beyond that average? A company must be able to keep up with changing markets. It has to learn what elements are slowing down its ability to adapt. A company must be able to continuously reinvent itself to stay relevant. Serial Innovators is a guide for how to build a company that is adaptive, innovative and can survive well into the future.

 

 

 

 

by Les McKeown

The Synergist by Les McKeown: A successful team includes bold dreamers (Visionaries), pragmatic realists (Operators), and systems designers (Processors) but it takes a Synergist to blend the motivations and goals of the three types and get everyone to work together effectively. The Synergist puts aside his or her own agenda and captures the best input from each team member. Anyone can learn to be the Synergist and fill this critical role in teamwork improvement. The Synergist reveals a proven method to build highly successful teams while stimulating personal and organizational growth.

 

 

 

by Robert I. Sutton

Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton: How a boss wields his or her power over an employee is bound to result in feelings that might include resentment, confusion or possibly comfort. If you are a boss, are you attuned to how your words and actions affect your employees? Good Boss, Bad Boss is for bosses and those who have bosses. It details how to adopt the characteristics of a good boss and survive the flaws of a bad boss. Dr. Sutton uses real-life case studies and behavioral science research to reveal exactly what the best bosses do.

 

 

 

 

To download your copies in any of Soundview’s multiple digital formats, visit Soundview’s Web site, Summary.com.



The Covey Family Business

We just booked Sean Covey and Chris McChesney, authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, for an upcoming webinar in July, and as I was reviewing the book and information about the development of their execution training, I was reminded of the Covey business legacy.

Stephen R. Covey first broke onto the business scene back in 1989 when he published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The audio-book of this title later became the first non-fiction audio-book to sell more than a million copies, and the book has sold over 25 million copies.

The elder Covey has followed up his 7 Habits book with The 8th Habit, Principle-Centered Leadership, and recently The 3rd Alternative, along with various versions of the 7 Habits book and additional titles he co-authored. His highly successful Covey Leadership Center eventually merged with Franklin Quest to become FranklinCovey.

His son Stephen M.R. Covey joined the family business, moving up through the ranks to become CEO of Covey Leadership Center. He later started his own company CoveyLink with friend Greg Link. Together they wrote The Speed of Trust and recently followed this up with Smart Trust.

Another son of the elder Stephen, Sean Covey, is Executive Vice President of Global Solutions and Partnerships for FranklinCovey. He followed up his father’s 7 Habits book with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and just last month released The 4 Disciplines of Execution, based on research and training programs developed through FranklinCovey.

Even the in-laws are part of the business. A.Roger Merrill and Rebecca Merrill co-authored First Things First with Covey in 1994, and later wrote the follow-up title Life Matters.  I wouldn’t be surprised if more Coveys appear on the business scene in the coming years, since Dr. Covey has 9 children and 52 grandchildren.

The real legacy that the Coveys will leave is a laser-focused emphasis on bringing what’s important in life into business. Family values, ethical and moral values, and spiritual life all play a part in his writing and teaching. If we all could integrate our life inside and outside of work into a coherent whole, we would be saved from many of the troubling issues that currently haunt corporate America.



Employee Loyalty Equals Customer Loyalty

In a previous job, I worked for a woman who cared deeply about her employees. We enjoyed having every day off that both the post office and bank had, plus we always had the week between Christmas and New Years along with a Christmas bonus, on top of our regular vacation days. If your child had an event going on at school during work hours, she would encourage you to attend, and she was always interested in how our families were doing.

Her supportiveness resulted in a very loyal group of employees, ready to do whatever was needed to make the company successful. And this was especially evident in our treatment of our customers. We would go out of our way for them, because this was part of the overall atmosphere of the company.

Although this is certainly not a novel idea, loyalty seems to have taken a back seat to survival in the past decade here in the U.S.. While there has been a strong push for customer service, the employees have not always been taken into account.

In The Loyalty Factor, Dianne Durkin connects these two groups back together. Her Loyalty Factor is “Employee loyalty drives customer loyalty, which drives brand loyalty.” Some of her suggestions as to how to encourage employee loyalty include:

  • Communicate uniquely with each generation
  • Accommodate employee differences
  • Create workplace choices
  • Be flexible in your leadership style
  • Respect competence and initiative
  • Recognize achievements
  • Reward results

If you would like to hear more about Durkin’s thoughts on loyalty, you’re in luck. We’ve invited her to join us for our next Soundview Live webinar, Building Employee, Customer and Brand Loyalty, on May 15th. Register today and bring your loyalty questions to ask during the session.



Book Review: The Rare Find

by George Anders

This past weekend saw the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, the biggest thoroughbred race in the United States. For some companies, the process of hiring a new employee can be the same as placing a wager on a thoroughbred. Despite in-depth research, lengthy accolade-filled resumes and ringing endorsements, employers are often left in the same state as gamblers who put their hopes on a “sure thing,”: tearing their tickets up in disgust. Meanwhile, a select few back an unlikely candidate that surges past the pack and into the record books. Columnist and author George Anders takes an in-depth look at the science of recognizing talent in his new book The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else. The summary of Anders’ latest release is now available from Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Anders tackles the question of talent discovery with writing that will keep any executive riveted to the page. He has a gift for telling a compelling story but sacrifices none of the takeaways that business book readers require in exchange for the investment of their time. By putting examples from Teach for America alongside more predictable references to Facebook and Hewlett-Packard, Anders provides a more complete picture of the talent-scouting process. Any executive who is involved in the hiring process at his or her company will want to read Anders section on “the jagged resume.” A candidate’s scattered success record used to be a one-way ticket to the discard pile. However, Anders does a masterful job of teaching readers why a potential employee with an up-and-down record could become a superstar if your company is the right setting.

To download your copy of The Rare Find in any of Soundview’s multiple digital formats, visit Soundview’s Web site Summary.com.

Special Reminder for Soundview Subscribers! This Thursday, May 10, George Anders will be our guest on Soundview Live, the exclusive weekly Webinar series that puts you in touch with today’s top business authors. If you’re a Soundview subscriber, you can attend for FREE. Just visit Summary.com and click the Webinars tab to find out how you can sign up!



The Myth of Multitasking

Recently, I was on a conference call with my office and on the other line was a room full of people. As I listened, my email alert popped up and I clicked over to see what it was about. A minute later I realized that I hadn’t heard what was being said on the call. I quickly focused back on the meeting, only to be distracted again by the headline of the Wall St Journal lying open on my desk.

Then the dreaded question could be heard on the other side of the phone, “What do you think about that?” Oh, they’re talking to me and I have no idea what was just said. With a quick “I didn’t quite catch that last part, can you repeat it?”, I caught back up with the conversation while moving the newspaper out of view.

Multitasking is a myth for most of humanity. Our minds are designed to focus on only one thing at a time, and what most of us refer to as multitasking is actually linear-tasking, moving our focus quickly back-and-forth between several tasks. But our mind is focused on only one at a time.

A Utah researcher found that only about 2.5% of the population can actually multitask, a rare group of “super-taskers.” The rest of us can only truly multitask with activities that don’t require our mind to be fully engaged, such as knitting or working out. Such automatic tasks allow us to focus our mind on something else like reading or watching TV.

In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente says that multitasking can actually slow us down. He points out that brain scans reveal that if we do two tasks at the same time, we have only half of the usual brain power devoted to each. Can we really afford to be only half there for an important activity?

Poscente believes that we should embrace speed. What he is suggesting is that we should use every technology at our disposal to speed up the unimportant tasks of our lives – the minutiae that we just need to get through. Then we can take our time with the important tasks, those things that really matter to us.

What does this look like in daily life? Well, it means that we must always be making evaluations of the tasks we’re performing. Is this a task I just need to get through as quickly as possible, and if so how can I make it more efficient? And on the other hand, if a task is important and valuable, how can I hold back the interruptions so that this time has my full attention?

An example that most of us can identify with is setting a rule of no mobile devices at the dinner table. Interaction with our family is essential and should not be interrupted by anyone’s cell phone. We draw a line here – this is not the time for speed.

In the corporate world, this concept is leading to what is called a “values-based time model.” Poscente uses the example of Best Buy and its Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). This initiative has led to a 35% increase in productivity.

So the bottom line is that multitasking is not the solution to our time pressures. Instead we need to make value-based decisions about what to focus our attention on and what to speed up with the technologies at our disposal. So when I’m on the phone with the main office I need to put aside the distractions!



Spotting Exceptional Talent
May 2, 2012, 11:00 AM
Filed under: Human Resources, Soundview Live | Tags: ,

In The Rare Find, George Anders tells the story of an HR manager at Google who compiled over 300 characteristics recommended by executives as important to watch for when hiring, and compared them against the database of their employees. He found that what Google has considered important for new hires is not what actually stands out in the most successful employees.

From this study the manager began looking at resumes “upside down” – that is he started at the bottom where people list their hobbies, accomplishments and interests. From here he could get the person’s story, what motivates them. This information, considered along with the usual education, grades and the like, gave a much better picture of who might be the most successful employees.

Anders provides powerful ideas for making sure that you don’t miss that candidate with great potential, including:

  • Don’t ignore “the jagged résumé” — people whose background appears to teeter on the edge between success and failure. Such people can do spectacular work in the right settings, where their strengths are invaluable and their flaws don’t matter.
  • Look extra hard for “talent that whispers” — the obscure, out-of-the-way candidates that most scouting systems overlook.
  • Be careful with “talent that shouts” — the spectacular but brash candidates whose positive qualities might not outweigh future problems with loyalty, motivation, and team spirit.

If you would like to learn more about how to find the “stand out” employees for your company, join us on May 10th for our Soundview Live webinar Spotting Exceptional Talent with George Anders. Bring your most challenging hiring-questions for the author as well. One exceptional employee can turn a company around!