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.

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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.



What Is a Healthy Company?

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increased reference in news articles and books to the subject of organizational health. In a Fortune article back at the end of 2010, Colin Price pointed to the demise of an emphasis solely on performance and a movement toward a more sustainable focus on the health of the organization.

But what does a healthy organization look like? Patrick Lencioni, in his latest book The Advantage, says “an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified.” And he goes on to claim that “Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.”

Can you imagine an organization free from politics and confusion? But Lencioni says that it’s possible and offers four actionable steps to get there.

  1.  Build a cohesive leadership team – cohesive teams build trust, eliminate politics and increase efficiency.
  2. Create clarity – healthy organizations minimize the potential for confusion.
  3. Over-communicate clarity – healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages.
  4. Reinforce clarity – organizations sustain their health by ensuring consistency.

This is of course only part of the picture, and Lencioni will be filling in the details at our Soundview Live webinar Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else on March 27th. Please join us and bring your questions for Pat.



Creating Ownership in Your Company

Although we place a high value on the knowledge and expertise of business gurus and authors, there is also much to be learned from executives who are out in the trenches of the business world, running companies and making decisions every day. This is the focus of our Executive Insight video series.

In a recent video, we interviewed Roseline Marston, president of A.D. Marble & Co., which provides environmental, cultural and engineering services focusing on archeological and historical structures. A.D. Marble is an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company, and Ms. Marston provides some excellent insight into how to create ownership in your company that goes well beyond just owning stock.

I have pulled out a few leadership principles that I culled from the interview, but you’ll want to watch the whole video:

  1. Physical presence is essential – Marston doesn’t depend on email to run her company. She regularly visits all six of their sites, and while there, works from a cubical next to other employees. She also works closely with each office manager and uses video conferencing when needed.
  2. Keep financials transparent – not only do employees see the financials on a regular basis, but they’re also trained in how to interpret them. In this way everyone knows how things are going, and are aware of crises early on.
  3. Ownership is important – knowing what is happening financially helps employees to better see how their work affects the bottom line.
  4. Feedback keeps things running smoothly – A.D. Marble solicits feedback from customers and employees about how they’re doing, and Marston applies this feedback to make improvements.
  5. Handle conflict directly – while the company has procedures in place for major breaches in behavior, all other issues are handled first at the peer-to-peer level.
  6. Leadership trumps management – Marston looks for potential leaders within the company, watching for those that demonstrate selflessness, loyalty and accountability. Leadership is not just about position, but about attitude and action.

If you’d like to watch the whole interview, or to enjoy our other Executive Insights videos, you can subscribe to Soundview Executive Book Summaries. All editions include the monthly video interviews. And we’d love to hear back about what you’re learning as well.



How Businesses Are Using Video

I recently ran across a great article written by Jimm Fox of One Market Media on the many business uses of video. I’ve listed his main categories below, and you can check out the full article for more details.

  1. Customer Reference – video helps with collecting and showing customer testimonials, case studies and interviews.
  2. Product & Service Promotion – companies use video for product presentations, demonstrations and reviews.
  3. Corporate – corporations provide their company overview, executive highlights, facility tours and more with video.
  4. Training & Support – video is the latest thing in employee training, sales presentations and maintenance support.
  5. Internal Communication – video is now being used for business plans, company achievements, event coverage, employee orientation and health & safety education.
  6. Marketing – video promotions can take the form of commercials, viral video, content marketing and landing pages.
  7. PR/Community – video press releases are becoming more popular, along with video PR materials and community relation pieces.
  8. Events – at an event, presentations, roundtable discussions and Q&A with experts can all take place in video.
  9. Other – videos are also being used for recruitment, vlogs (video blogs) and research/surveys.

On the internet search side of the equation, research shows that a webpage with video is 30% more likely to end up on the first page of search results in Google then the same page without video. Google is now giving preference to video content in their search algorithm.

At Soundview, we are following this trend carefully, and have expanded our own offerings to include video. Our iPad format of each business book summary includes a video introduction from our Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dayton.  We now produce Executive Insights, a series of videos which interview active executives regarding key business skills. And we’re developing additional video content to be released soon.

Video increases engagement time, deepens emotional connections, and gives your company more trust and credibility with your customers and other stake-holders. And the cost of entry is becoming less every day with new technologies and web tools. If your company or organization is not currently using video, now is the time to jump in.



Operating with High-Trust in a Low-Trust World

In January of 2012, Stephen M.R. Covey will publish a follow-up to his best-seller The Speed of Trust. This is his introduction to the book:

“Following one of our presentations on The Speed of Trust, a man made his way backstage to ask a question that was obviously troubling him deeply. “Are you really serious about this?” he asked incredulously. “Are there really more than just a few people out there who operate with the kind of trust you’re talking about?” This man lived and worked in a country that was ripe with corruption, deception, and massive distrust. He was clearly feeling deeply torn. He sincerely wanted to believe what we’d said but was finding it almost impossible in the context of his environment.”

I don’t think you need to leave the U.S. to find similar concerns and doubts about trusting others in the workplace. We see evidence of business people who can’t be trusted ever day in the news.

So how do we take advantage of the “speed of trust” that Covey introduced in his earlier book? Covey and his partner at Covey-Link, Greg Link, propose a “smart trust” that can work even in the midst of our low-trust environment. They describe the five actions trust companies have in common, that allow them to exercise smart trust:

  1. Choose to believe in trust.
  2. Start with self.
  3. Declare your intent . . . and assume positive intents in others.
  4. Do what you say you’re going to do.
  5. Lead out in extending trust to others.

Perhaps you have similar questions and doubts about trust in your company and business field. If so then you’ll want to join us on January 5th to hear Covey explain the details of this concept and take questions from participants. The Five Key Actions to Creating Smart Trust webinar is free for Soundview subscribers, and is Covey’s first engagement around the publication of the book.



What Are Your Favorite Resources?

In a given month I look at a lot of resources to improve the way I do my job, and to provide content for our various social media outlets. Here’s a partial list:

My #1 resource is of course Soundview’s stable of content: business book summaries, author webinars and interviews, Executive Insights videos, and our Executive Edge newsletter. I realize I’m biased but I don’t know how busy executives get by without this resource.

  • I subscribe to a few excellent book- and publishing-related newsletters like Publisher’s Weekly, Publishing Business Today and Mediabistro’s GalleyCat.
  • I still like to get magazines and currently receive Fast Company, Inc magazine, Fortune and Wired to name a few. I learn as much from the ads as from the article as to what companies are doing and what content is important. I also refer to their corresponding websites as needed.
  • The Wall St Journal is a great resource at many levels and again I use their website when it suits my needs.
  • I watch the Tweets of over 150 business authors and publishers, although it’s difficult to keep up. You can see the complete list of who I follow @BusinessBooks. In addition I receive newsletters and emails from several of our frequently summarized authors to stay attuned to what they’re doing.
  • Because we’re on the mailing list of all major book publishers, we also see what’s coming up for new books so that we can spot trends and choose upcoming titles to consider for summarization.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting, but you get the idea. What do you use for resources in your position? Our readers would love to see your list and perhaps I’ll pick up a few more for myself as well.