Soundview Executive Book Summaries


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.

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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.



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!



Leading Effectively from Anywhere

In the preface to her book The Virtual Executive, Dr. Debra Benton tells a love story. A story of meeting a real-life cowboy and of learning to run her consulting company, with accounts in 19 countries, from a 550-square-foot, 75-year-old cabin on a remote high-mountain ranch with sporadic electricity.

Benton learned to be a virtual executive before it became popular and in the process brought in more money in her first year of remote leadership than in the company’s previous 15-year history. From this experience she has captured principles to teach all executives who are still learning the art of leading virtually.

In her own words Benton states that “My goal is to give you simplicity in a world of complexity.”

One part of the book that I especially appreciated is when she lists her definition of being successful. Here are her measurements of success, in brief:

  •  You are working toward, you are on the brink of, or you have achieved your dream career while you remain a solid citizen.
  • When you communicate – which you have to do all of the time with everyone in some manner or another – you are deemed impressive, memorable, credible, genuine, trusted, liked, competent, confident, comfortable, cool, calm and collected.
  • You feel broadly adequate, and you treat others as broadly adequate too. That means you expect acceptance for what you bring to the table, and you give it to others.
  • People do not care if your style is dictatorial or participative so much; they care because you have goodwill toward them.
  • You fully appreciate the Golden Online/Offline Rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
  • You understand that when others treat you negatively, it’s because they themselves feel inadequate, do not feel “okay”, are having a bad day, or are upset, and they often attempt to transfer those feelings onto others. However, you do not let them to that to you.
  • You are equally effective in communicating these positive attributes that have contributed to your success whether you are face-to-face, talking on a phone, or e-mailing half way around the world.

Dr. Benton will be sharing her principles for effective virtual communications at our upcoming Soundview Live webinar, Becoming a Virtual Executive, on April 26th. Please join us to learn these crucial techniques for yourself.



Are College Graduates Prepared for the Job Market?

College graduations are coming up quickly, and as graduates prepare for final exams and exiting college life, they are also scurrying to find work.

I recently ran across a new website targeting recent graduates at Gradspring.com. This site focuses on entry-level jobs only, with a college degree requirement but 2 years or less work experience. They match graduates’ skills with the right job at no charge.

Of course there are many other sites for job-seekers like Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, Indeed.com, Experience.com, CareerRookie.com and CollegeGrad.com. Each has its strengths and weaknesses for the new graduate, but GradSpring.com promises to provide only jobs that have a salary commensurate with the industry standard, jobs that are truly entry-level, and jobs that have a physical workspace (no work-at-home listings).

As you or your graduate prepare for this big step out into the workforce, Soundview can also provide some resources for the new or potential employee.

This month we’re offering a special Graduation Subscription offer for Soundview Executive Book Summaries at 15% off our standard rates. In addition, gift givers can send a customized gift email to each recipient. Our business book summaries and author webinars are the perfect starter kit for anyone moving out into corporate life.

Next Thursday we’re also hosting a webinar with Eric Chester, author of Reviving Work Ethic. This will provide an eye-opening view into what employees expect from the Generation Y worker. You can register for $59, and registration is free for all Soundview subscribers.

Help the graduate in your life get off to a strong start with these resources.



How to Manage Your Boss

Imagine if we could combine Peter Drucker and Sigmund Freud! We would then have insight into the intersection of business and psychology, of management and the mind.

If we could better understand the mind and motivations of our bosses, we would then know how to manage them in a way that would help further our own careers. Although this approach may sound unusual, it is the basis of a new book by Dr. Karol Wasylyshyn called Behind the Executive Door.

Dr. Wasylyshyn categorizes leaders as Remarkable, Perilous or Toxic. And depending on where they are along that continuum affects how we interact with them. Wasylyshyn provides insight into each type of leader and clear steps for how to work with them.

One example is how to deal with a toxic boss. She states that in some cases it is not about managing but about surviving such a boss. And she provides a list of questions to access whether to Stay or Go. It may actually be unhealthy for you to stay in some circumstances.

If you would like to access your boss’s leadership type to help you better work with them, then you’ll want to join us on April 3rd for our Soundview Live webinar Unexpected Lessons for Managing Your Boss and Career. You’ll also have the opportunity to post questions for the author.



The Power of Influence

I recently joined a committee in my town that is planning an upcoming important event for the community. As I looked around the room at the members of this committee  there was a selectman, a school board member, a vice president of the local bank, the head of the historical society, and several other “movers and shakers” in the community.

 And so I wondered what role I could play with this powerful group of people. Would my thoughts be heard and my opinions valued? How could I have any influence over the decisions that would be made?

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, either in your community or your company, you might want to check out the teaching of Harrision Monarth in his book 360 Degrees of Influence. Monarth makes the case that with the right tools, anyone can have influence on those around them, no matter what their position or title.

Within his book is an interesting list on how to influence perception, whether the perception of you or your company:

  • Reputation matters
  • Reputation management is an activity, not a slogan
  • Tell the story – if you don’t tell your story, others will
  • Know your base – understand the business you’re in
  • Earn the trust of all stakeholders
  • Acknowledge errors
  • Fix the error
  • Recognize emergent concerns and respond to them
  • Never complain, but do explain

If you would like further details on this list, and to learn how to improve your influence at work, home and in your community, then why not join Harrison Monarth for our Soundview Live webinar on March 20th titled 360 Degrees of Influence. You’re sure to pick up some pointers that will help you to have a greater impact on those around you.